Having some spare time in London yesterday, I went over to Bow to see how the new junction design on the roundabout is working.
The Superhighway (CS2) on the approach to the roundabout is deeply unimpressive. Blocked intermittently with queuing vehicles, it might as well not be there.
This really isn’t any way to privilege the bicycle as a mode of transport.
As we approach the roundabout, there is a warning sign for drivers, alerting them to a ‘new layout ahead’.
Drivers need warning, because it is very new. And unique. There is no other junction arranged like this in the UK.
The whole point of the redesign has been to attempt to eliminate conflicts between left-turning vehicles and cyclists wishing to proceed straight on at the roundabout. It was these conflicts that resulted in the deaths of Brian Dorling at the location of the redesign, and Svetlana Tereschenko, heading west on the other side of the roundabout, where there have been no changes at all.
While the intentions are good, the final result is a bit of a grotesque muddle. The untried nature of this junction design is immediately apparent from a few minutes observation, watching how bicycles and motorists move through it.
The big headline recently has been the removal of a section of kerb separation, which was so long that vehicles were bumping over it as they moved onto the roundabout. You can see where the section used to be (the darker section of tarmac) in this photograph.
This removal isn’t actually all that big a deal for cyclists. It doesn’t affect the way the junction works – or should work – for them, nor should it affect their safety, if it is working as it is intended. Nonetheless, I think it is slightly symptomatic of the way this redesign has been implemented that a kerb was built which was obviously going to get in the way of turning vehicles.
With the old kerb in place, I can’t see how it would have been possible for a large vehicle to pass safely through the junction with a vehicle alongside it. The positioning of the kerb was a cock-up; it was just too tight for drivers of large vehicles to get around, going straight on while the two lane junction flows left onto the roundabout.
Amazingly, the real issue is that space at the mouth of this junction is constrained because of a drive-through entrance to a McDonalds on the left hand side.
The pavement can’t move left because of the drive-through, so the cycle lane can’t move left, and so the kerb separator can’t move left. That’s why it’s had to be removed – McDonalds has made the junction too tight.
As I say, the removal of the kerb is not an issue in and of itself; the stop line for bicycles still lies behind the end of the kerb, as does that for motorists. These two lines should not, theoretically, be crossed simultaneously.
The real problems – the manifold problems – with this design have nothing to do with the kerb. They all stem from the fact that there are four virtually identical traffic lights in a row, with different meanings.
The first two are for bicycles only, and permit them entry into the ASL (except this isn’t actually an ASL, it’s a double stop line. This is part of the confusion, as we shall see).
My initial concern was that cyclists would not stop at this light while motorists had a green light beside them. This concern was well-founded. I didn’t see a single cyclist stop at this light while I was at the junction, and the Met Cycle Task Force police officer I spoke to said he had only seen three stop there all day. This was confirmed by a TfL chap who had been on site, on and off, for five hours that same day, doing counts.
This isn’t suprising, because the ‘main’ lights for the junction are green, and it seems obvious to progress through with the rest of the flow. The result, however, is precisely the same left-hook conflicts that the new junction design sought to eliminate. Here is what happened while I was standing at the junction.
A cyclist ignores the initial ‘ASL’ red light, joining the flow of vehicles, and is promptly in a ‘left hook’ conflict with a van turning left.
Similarly, these cyclists have passed through ‘their’ red light (two of them evidently want to turn right at the roundabout, and give up, heading across the pavement). The consequences are again dangerous, and I have to say it’s surely only a matter of time before there’s another serious, and all-too-familiar, accident here.
These cyclists are not necessarily law-breakers – they’re most likely confused. A light signal to enter another small section of road, just a few yards ahead, is unheard of, and just a bit weird; likewise, the idea of being held at a red light when you can see the ‘safe’ blue paint extending ahead of you, and vehicles progressing beside you, is odd.
Another problem – one which I had not anticipated – is that cyclists are interpreting the two ‘green’ bicycle lights on the traffic lights for entry to the ‘ASL’ as green lights to progress across the entire roundabout. Incredibly dangerous. A local PCSO at the junction – a lady who was actually present at the aftermath of the Svetlana Tereschenko incident, and described to me her horror at the scene – told me that just before I had arrived, a young lady went straight on across the roundabout, narrowly being missed by a fast car coming around it and taking the A12 exit. I saw the same innocent mistake being made by one cyclist as I stood at the roundabout; she rode straight down the separated lane and onto the roundabout, progressing on a ‘green’ bicycle signal that in reality only meant it was safe for her to enter the ‘ASL’, not the roundabout. Fortunately there were no vehicles moving around it.
There is more ambiguity. These cyclists, shown below, went through the green ‘bicycle’ lights, but then stopped at the first red light beyond it, instead of progressing all the way up to the stop line at the final set of traffic lights.
The same again with this lady, stopping at the first set of the two ‘vehicle’ lights.
This means that when the lights go green, cyclists are setting off adjacent to the vehicles. Another source of left hook conflicts.
Drivers were also confused by the double/triple/quadruple set of lights. They should be stopping at the first solid white line, but a further solid white line, and a final set of lights, without any indication that the area in between is ‘for bikes’ (like with a traditional ASL), meant that many just rolled up to the final set of lights. It’s hard to see because they are shielded, but they remain green after the first set have gone red. This van driver was evidently driving to the second set.
Naturally when a vehicle is positioned like this, cyclists have no positional or temporal advantage to get them through the junction safely.
Here’s another driver driving to the final set of lights.
The whole concept of having two stop lines for vehicles, with two different sets of lights that go red and green at different times is, to me, utterly baffling, and it is proving to be so for drivers. There should just be one stop line, the initial one, and one set of lights. That would remove the ambiguity at a stroke, and also ensure that vehicles are held back. The final set of lights should be for bicycles only, although it is hard to see how this could be shielded to prevent confusion. Another problem. Finally, some confused drivers were stopping well short of the junction, at the red light for bicycle entry to the ‘ASL’.
The timings, as things stand, are not generous either. The final set of lights – which, remember, should be for bicycles only, and not for the vehicles that through confusion have ended up at the final line – turn green only about a second before the ‘vehicle’ set.
With such a small difference, vehicles that accelerate quickly will surely get into just the same left-hook conflicts with slow-off-the-mark cyclists as existed before.
It’s nice that TfL have attempted something here, but unfortunately it’s a bit of a mess. There are too many signals, too many lines, and far too much ambiguity. The exact same turning conflicts that gave rise to the deaths that prompted the work still exist.
The most sensible solution would, of course, be a dedicated, clear, phase allowing bicycles to progress east across the roundabout, and pedestrians, likewise, to cross the A12 sliproad, with left-turning vehicles held explicitly at a red light. Those left-turning vehicles could then move off while bicycles and pedestrians are themselves held at a red light. This is not rocket science – it’s how the Dutch have safely designed large junctions for bicycles and pedestrians for decades.
What we currently have at Bow is a sorry compromise that isn’t really going to work safely, a compromise that has been wedged in because junction capacity for motor vehicles seemingly cannot be reduced, even marginally. Until that changes, pedestrians and cyclists will continue to be treated shabbily.
One thing I forgot to mention in my post is the difficulty of conventional ‘filtering’ through the traffic here.
This is a basic problem across much of London; filtering is difficult and unpleasant when vehicles are jammed up against each other. A couple of motorcycles decided to use the cycle lane, and were swiftly told off by the police.
To my mind, this makes an unanswerable case for space for cycling, protected space that cannot be invaded. ‘Primary’ position is all well and good, and is almost certainly quite a safe way to cycle around if you are confident; however in situations like this it is almost always far quicker and more pleasant to use cycle tracks and lanes, even for experienced cyclists, as well as being less unnerving.
The issue then becomes one of how to plonk cyclists into a primary position at junctions, when you have delivered them there at the side of the road. I don’t think that is ever going to work, not least because the vast majority of people don’t want to plonk themselves in front of buses and HGVs around a busy roundabout. The solution must surely involve keeping those cyclists separated from fast and heavy traffic in the junction, as well as along the roads leading to it. This is what has been proven to work; a way of allowing people riding bikes of all ages and abilities to negotiate junctions like this one.
Unbeknownst to me, the excellent Diamond Geezer has also visited and blogged about these very same ‘improvements’, reaching pretty much the same conclusions, and in more detail. Well worth a read.
Sad to say, but this seems to have turned out much as I predicted it would. Why does TfL feel the need to invent new types of half-baked infrastructure like this ?
David, if you move back to London and run as mayor, I’ll vote for you! 🙂
“It’s nice that TfL have attempted something here, but unfortunately it’s a bit of a mess. ”
Your analysis seems spot on, apart from this line. It is not nice that TfL have attempted something here. All they need to do is follow decades of infrastructure knowledge from the Netherlands, as David says, to arrive at something decent. Of course, that would be more politically difficult. This is just a dangerous waste of money.
I respect your blog very much. Nowhere else are the real problems facing cyclists in traffic documented and openly discussed. I may not agree with the whole concept of segregating cyclists at all, but the erudition and proper debate in this blog is a rare thing.
Great article. So it looks like TFL have once again screwed up. Did they actually consult with anyone? Just goes to show that if you ignore research done in the Netherlands/elsewhere and think you can come up with your own “unique” solution, then shouldn’t be in the job.
Also the junction is a bit different from the original video TFL put around, what happened to the “4 second” head start for cyclists? Reduced to 1 second for traffic flow?
I still maintain that all these left hook conflict would not happen if the cyclists in question had been driving their bicycles in the same land that the cars were choosing to use to go straight on or turn left, and in the primary positions. Traffic speeds wouldn’t even be A problem from the videos. I just don’t understand why cyclists want to be on the left of any junction where cars may wish to turn left. Mad.
And if you think I’m going to wait like a lemon at a ‘cyclist only’ red light while all other vehicles continue their journey then dream on.
Cyclists “want” to be in that position because that is where a) motorists expect us to be, b) where cycle lanes are provided they ARE on the left, c) when cycle lanes disappear you are stuck on the left, d) Aggressive driving intimidates cyclists from taking a primary position, e) years and years of the left position being the expected position.
What you are asking for is a complete mind shift from both cyclists and motorists to accept that cycling in the primary position. Not going to happen I’m afraid and certainly not overnight.
The dutch have years and years of experience in successfully delivering a road infrastructure that works for motorists and cyclists. And its mostly segregated.
It’s my point exactly, the very existence of segregation encourages very dangerous cycling practice by weak willed cyclists who put motorists opinion of them above their own safety. Not me they can wait behind me at the lights And go round the roundabout behind me too. If they hoot then they know I’m there. I’m not responsible for motorists mental hygiene , I’m responsible for my safety.
I would suggest that a Dutch style infra structure ain’t gonna happen this side of utopia. I can take the primary any time I need to.
Let’s hope you never get anyof the b****y-minded specimens i have had the misfortune to meet sat behind you. They wouldn’t think twice about showing you where your place is. To an extent I agree we should be more assertive and demand our rightful space on the road, but at the end of the day, you are practically nothing in the face of a vehicle. Which is why they can and have driven straight over cyclists and not even been aware of the fact.
I had what could have been near fatal accident when I was hit by a car that practically stopped at the stop sign, looked straight ahead at me and the rest of the world, then drove straight into me. I knew although he looked he hadnt seen but there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. If he had had the passenger window open I could have jumped in the van, but alas I went over. Somewhat fortunately for me, his window met my head and I was unconscious after that point. Even more fortunately nothing else was racing up behind me, nor in the next lane, else I wouldnt be here to tell the tale. I was lucky to get away with concussion and very bad bruises to my elbow, head and shoulder, and swelling – and a beautiful black eye for Christmas.
If you think London is poor, try Athens, Greece. I so miss riding, but it’s hard enough being a pedestrian here. I am not brave enough to cycle on public highways.
But the past week has been very sad with these deaths, and each day I wait to see what the next incident involves … and they all seem to be buses and lorries.
Physical segregation is the only way for me. But it won’t happen this side of the new millenium!
Oh if only we could all be as strong willed as you are Wyadvd. Talk about a Utopia! To often see aggressive drivers putting cyclists at risk for the very reason that the cyclists HAS taken the primary position and “delayed” their journey. It’s all very well being responsible for your own safety, which I fully recommend, but when the arsehole motorist behind you isn’t being responsible for YOUR safety then you are in trouble.
Why do you, like Transport for London, think to know better than a country like the Netherlands that has for over 40 years trialed, improved and continues to improve its road infrastructure to make cycling safer? Remove the conflicts.
You maintain whatever you want, the data is that the only country that has achieved high levels of cycling for all ages and abilities (even the weak willed), as well as high levels of safety, is the Netherlands. And one of the most important tools they use is clear, obvious and intuitive segregation.
I maintain that as long as the facilities are as piss-poor half-baked compromises as they currently are in the UK, it will be a cold day in hell when I let my son cycle around.
I’ve added an update to the post which I hope goes some way to answering you. Thanks for your comment above, by the way.
..not just the ‘weak willed’, but the old, infirm, young etc. Wyadvd, you’re very much the minority.
Hello again Wyadvd! I’m determined to talk you round to loving cycle paths… 🙂
In the Netherlands, a 9 year old child could navigate this junction safely, due to the infrastructure provided.
As you don’t want this, are you saying that:
a) Young children should not cycle here
b) This junction is safe for young children, as long as they maintain primary position.
I know you’re happy riding with the motor traffic, I have no argument with that. But surely you can acknowledge that cycling levels in the UK will not grow if vehicular cycling is the only way to do it?
I can accept true Dutch style infrastructure in this country (It will never happen in the depths of a global economic depression BTW) if it gets more people on bikes, as I accept that to the majority of non-cyclists it SEEMS to make cycling less risky. I don’t accept that the infrastructure per se is what makes Dutch cycling less risky, but that’s another question.
However, It will also never truly work here unless there is a national programme to totally re-think the entire national infrastructure, and a law is passed to force all cyclists to use the cycling infrastructure. The latter I could never accept.
There is no point in an attempt at a cycling infrastructure project that confuses all road users, and appears to actively funnel cyclists into the most dangerous place for them to be when going forward where motor vehicles may be turning left (ie the extreme left). I haven’t seen a single on road cycle lane in the uk that does not do that or imply that this road position for cyclists is expected at such junctions. If the OP can casually ride up to the junction at a random moment and witness two or three close calls caused by cyclists being in the wrong place (whilst thinking and appearing superficially to be where they “should” be) at a junction then something is wrong.Very wrong.
I have read the following:
Click to access Cycle%20Track%20lessons%20learned.pdf
and I still think the “copenhagenleft” (aka right in the UK) is cack handed so to speak. I would still rather negotiate into the right hand lane and just wait for my turn at the junction. But that’s silly old me. If I actually did that in Holland I’d be arrested right?
how about this from salt lake city?:
and a 2008 utah newsclip video which I feel adds to this discussion:
I agree that this design is flawed. Left-hook conflicts continue to exist.
The whole point of Dutch design, however, is to eliminate precisely these conflicts by ensuring that cyclists proceeding straight across a junction simply do not encounter vehicles turning left. It’s an impossibility; cyclists and motor vehicles are 100% segregated from each other, spatially and temporally. It doesn’t matter that cyclists are ‘over to the side’ because they, and pedestrians, will not encounter left-turning vehicles. The left-hook conflict does not exist at a junction of this size and type.
The best solution for this junction would be to introduce just such a filter; holding left-turning vehicles while bicycles and pedestrians progress across the junction (there are currently no crossings for pedestrians at this roundabout). Unfortunately ‘capacity’ (for motor vehicles) appears to be TfL’s governing principle, and such a design appears to be anathema.
Don’t confuse what they do in Denmark with what they do in the Netherlands. The “Copenhagen left” is a daft idea and while its normal for Denmark, I’ve not yet found the same thing in the Netherlands. For that reason you’d have a hard time finding such a thing in the Netherlands (a country made up of twelve provinces, only two of which are called South and North Holland) so that you could be displeased by it.
I wrote nearly two years ago about how I also think the “Copenhagen Left” is a cack handed “solution”, and why it shouldn’t be emulated by other nations. The modal share in that city lags behind merely average for the Netherlands, CPH is a hype monster and offers lots of less than optimal cheap “solutions” which some people think they want to copy.
Rather, we have much better designs of traffic light junctions, and more importantly, very often avoid traffic light junctions altogether due to the routes for cyclists being different to those for drivers. It’s a much more sophisticated and holistic approach than merely slapping in a few cycle-paths alongside roads full of cars and telling people to negotiate junctions which really are not designed for cycling at all in the cack-handed manner either of Bow or Copenhagen.
As for looking to Salt Lake City for examples – that’s an even worse idea. The USA has a lower modal share for cycling even than the UK does. They don’t have better solutions to get people cycling than the UK. Look to the Netherlands, not to the USA. And if you want to know how they do things in Denmark, I would suggest that US sources are not the best place to find out about that either.
Excellent post, haven’t had a chance to watch the clips yet but just reading the description and looking at the photos it looks a nightmare! As others have said TFL seem hellbent on trying to re-invent the wheel when it comes to cycle infrastructure design instead of following the excellent examples shown by the Dutch.
Fantastic analysis. Clearly, tinkering around the edges of traffic schemes is not the answer to making our roads safe for cycling. I so wish TfL would forget its pride, and ask the Netherlands for some advice as to what to do at Bow.
We really need a major flagship scheme somewhere, with safe cycling as its starting point (maybe with the bike lanes down the middle of the carriageway, as I think maybe Wyadvd would agree with), where its benefits can be properly measured. Hopefully this would prove so successful that all other new schemes would be designed using the same approach.
Well done Mark, great analysis of the works.
This design further illustrates that safe cycling provision and fast car routes can not co-exist. If TfL are serious about cycling safety, and promotion of cycling as a viable transport option for London, they need to abandon ‘network assurance’ every time a design is up for consultation. If they stop trying to squeeze as many cars through the junction every phase, then we could look at a sensible design.
Spot on David H, TfL and other road planners seem to want to come up with increasingly complex designs to resolve simple problems.
Is there no such thing in the UK as small, shoulder-level sets of traffic lights? There are plenty of these in France or Denmark, and installing smaller lights for cyclists with clear bike-shaped lights would avoid all this confusion very easily.
It’s nice to see TFL doing something though, hopefully a sign of better things to come.
Given that you can only go straight on at the roundabout, why not just use the flyover? Wouldn’t that be the far simpler solution?
The flyover is, oddly, probably safer than the roundabout. It’s the way I would go if I were to use this route, and indeed the Police at the roundabout observed that most cyclists crossing the junction were using it. However, it is difficult and a bit intimidating to get onto it, especially if you are a slower and more nervous cyclist. You have to get into the lane that the white van is travelling in in picture 2 (or the blue BMW in picture 3); these vehicles are moving at speed, and you have to hold your position there. This is Grumpycyclist’s point, below.
Funnily enough, the other TfL ‘option’ (one that was rejected) involved putting a wide cycle track/lane on the flyover, with light-controlled crossings to get across into it, and back out of it; this would have avoided the need to hold a strong position in front of fast vehicles.
This may have been safer, but I suspect the timings for crossing would have been quite ungenerous.
I really do not understand why planners in this country feel that they have to “experiment” to find their own solutions, when they could simple look at international best practice! It wastes large amounts of money and causes as many problems as it was supposed to solve, it is just stupidity and arrogance.
In London cycle infrastructure costs £2m per mile, in Chicago they imported Dutch expertise and cycle infrastructure costs £100K per mile. The sooner we stop London’s subsidy cheque the better.
As a regular user of the Bow junction on my cycle, I will continue to use the flyover. But to answer Phil’s question, the issue with the flyover is that it is a reasonable climb, you are very exposed to cross winds which makes cycling sometimes a bit challenging, and although 30mph limit, vehicles regularly exceed this by a very high margin to make the whole experience intimidating at times. I hold primary and frequently look back ready to bail to the side if I see a car looking like it will plough through me. And on the other side (coming from Mile End to Stratford), the slip road is long, fast and difficult to merge with traffic.
Let’s not forget why the new scheme is the way it is. It isn’t designed in this complicated fashion because this is way improves cycle safety, but because it doesn’t interrupt traffic flow. A far better solution, if you wish to implement cycle lights, would be to have a single stop line with a segregated cycle way with its own lights and its own light phase. In fact this phase could be integrated with a pedestrian phase as cyclists won’t be going down the left turn to the A12 where cycling is banned. But this would reduce the green light time for cars, so I assume was discounted.
I wonder why they completely ignore what is tried and tested in the Netherlands? Is it a case of Not Invented Here syndrome? Or a hatred of people riding bicycles? Or a 100% blinkered attitude that the only traffic that matters is motor traffic?
I happen to live at the roundabout, I have seen first hand the aftermath of those fatal accidents from my balcony! This new bit is a joke! I thank the Author for posting that the easy way would be to allow bicycles AND PEDESTRIANS to cross whilst vehicles are stopped at a red light! I am a wheelchair user and have NEVER been able to cross there as I fear for my life! There is no way I can speed up to run across traffic as Boris has mentioned with his pedestrian closures! This roundabout IS a deathtrap! Lets have this Author head up the needed renovation as he knows what he is speaking about! Great Article!
Phil, You are so right, the only reason a pedestrian hasn’t been killed here is that few people are brave enough to try and cross. TFL’s policy of smoothing traffic flow has led to hundreds of pedestrian crossings being removed or crossing time reduced right across London. It’s simply crazy and dangerous, surely TFL and the Mayor know this as well.
My one hope is that this frightening trend will be reversed once the Olympics are out of the way and the fear of Transport failure during the games has gone. Smoothing traffic flow is not a solution, it just increases traffic to the point where delays and queues are back to the point they were before.
Markyjl, you also are correct! When I witnessed Boris Johnson’s comment on the news that his removing of the pedestrian crossings help traffic flow and that pedestrians will just have to “Move faster” was the most stupid comment I’ve ever heard! Of course, Boris is FULL of stupid idea’s and comments, how he got re-elected I’ll never know, don’t get me started LOL! How in hell is a disabled or aged person supposed to “Move Faster” when many can barely walk at all? He is putting london peoples safety at risk in favour of traffic! I guess he figures if we all get killed at these dangerous crossings, the problem will go away? I know, I would NEVER use the roundabout even though i’d love to go to the little river there, so because of no pedestrian crossings, a bit more of my freedom is taken away from me and I don’t have that much to begin with! We are soon to move from here hopefully and the stress level should go way down. I feel so sorry for the cyclists as I witness several close calls daily! But I don’t think it is always the Vehicle Driver’s fault either as many of the cyclists do NOT use common sense either! Something needs to be done and the only solution that would be safest for all would be Red light for traffic and pedestrian/bike crossing! Just to make another point, the Bicycle traffic lights they installed are confusing, don’t you think if they put up a sign stating that ” All Cyclists MUST STOP when light is Red” would help? THe other thing is to start handing out hefty citations to those that do not play by the rules, then word would get out as to how to use the lights correctly!
I wonder if Philip has a legal point here – there must be something in law which says that you can’t intentionally make life difficult for disabled people like Boris and TfL have done here. If Boris has even admitted that he’s only thinking of fast, able-bodied pedestrians then maybe there is a case here? Is the D.A.N. still going?
You may be interested to know that in the Netherlands, a wheelchair is legally a “bicycle”. Cycle-paths have to accommodate people with disabilities by law, and you see a wide range of different wheelchairs, hand-cycles, electric assisted vehicles using cycle-paths.
Cycling can be remarkably inclusive when it is considered as something with a wider scope than just young fit and brave people.
This junction is one of the few crossings over the River Lee so cyclists have to use it, especially in winter when the alternative routes thru’ Victoria Park are closed at dusk.
Anyone travelling directly across the junction can safely travel in the west bound direction because there is a single lane of traffic with a wide chevroned area which you can use to over take on the stationary rush hour traffic.
However on the east bound side there are two traffic lanes in a similar amount of space and much higher speeds. Even during the rush hour you will hear drivers braking hard behind you before trying to squeeze past.
I doubt that this junction can be fixed, only a dedicated cyclist and pedestrian crossing of both the River Lee and the A12 on either side of the junction will work.
And why on earth do you need a Maccas drive through in central London for goodness sake?
I have travelled along this route a couple of times when going to and from meetings in Stratford. I always use the flyover not for any other reason than it seemed the most straightforward (this was before I read this or the two fatalities occurred) are we not supposed to do this on bikes?
Firstly why are the cyclist lights at the same height as the vehicle lights? Secondly wouldn’t a similar style of junction as this one in Southwark https://maps.google.co.uk/maps?hl=en&ll=51.492875,-0.073275&spn=0.001234,0.003034&hnear=Royal+Borough+of+Greenwich,+Greater+London,+United+Kingdom&t=m&z=19&layer=c&cbll=51.492805,-0.073197&panoid=QKuXyiJwnpxhu2mtmRHHnw&cbp=12,311.87,,0,16.15 make more sense?
Scott, that design is still very poor. It leads to a terrible conflict of cyclists having to mive into the middle whilst avoiding left filtering traffic. Looks fine on a clear day, with no cars. But imagine a wet night round Bow. Not good.
I think traffic lights currently have to be that height because Department for Transport spec demands it – this needs addressing, and I hope it’s one of the things TfL will be talking to the DfT about. (The fact that DfT guidelines offer no real cycling provision is a big part of the problem – the DfT is where much cycling infrastructure pressure should be aimed, I reckon!)
Secondly, I hate those bike lanes which are between two motor vehicle lanes! They’re ignored by motor vehicles even more than kerb-side cycle lanes (which is saying something), and I find them pretty treacherous. There’s one where Baylis Road meets Waterloo Road in SE1, and the left-turning vehicles swing out to turn the corner, squeezing any poor cyclist in the central bike lane. There’s another at the north end of Waterloo Bridge where it meets Aldwych/Strand, which is even worse!
The initial problem was caused by the cycle lane feeding cyclists heading straight on to the left of a general traffic lane containing vehicles turning left. -ie the general problem that all segregated road side cycle facilities cause at junctions. It was particularly severe at this location because the layout of the junction facilitates high speed turning and virtually all the motor traffic in that lane is turning left across the path of cyclists.
The simple solution would be to remove the cycle lane (which would also solve the filtering problem as the general traffic lanes would not then be tightly packed). An alternative would be to relocate the cycle lane between the two general lanes so that cyclists could approach the junction from a safe and predictable line for vehicles heading straight on. Unfortunately, the authorities obsession with segregation means that only way the facility can be used safely is at the expense of cyclists convenience – so cyclists are always faced with a red light whatever the other traffic lanes are doing.
Pete, I wouldn’t bother everyone on this blog is in Dutch la la land they don’t understand a word you are saying !
No, I understand perfectly what Pete is saying – he’s calling for the adoption of failed or unattractive solutions at Bow.
A) “the general problem that all segregated road side cycle facilities cause at junctions”. Not true. If left-turning vehicles are held at a red light while cyclists progress across the junction, there are no conflicts, and no problems. This is the Dutch approach, which I make clear in this post.
B) “The simple solution would be to remove the cycle lane” – i.e. the arrangement under which two cyclists have died at this roundabout. Good idea.
C) “An alternative would be to relocate the cycle lane between the two general lanes so that cyclists could approach the junction from a safe and predictable line for vehicles heading straight on” How attractive do you think that is going to be for more nervous cyclists, riding between a bus and a lorry? Complete madness.
There is a tried and tested way of arranging these junctions so that they can be negotiated safely and pleasantly by people on bicycles of all ages and abilities. The Dutch way. Can we please stop ignoring the evidence?
I’m not sure of the exact cronology . But didn’t the two deaths on bow happened in short order AFTER segregated blue cycle lanes had been painted on the left of the road? Were there lots of dead cyclists there before the superhighway? I don’t know to be honest?
No. The east-bound death occurred at a location where there was only an ASL, and some blue paint on the road that did not even constitute a cycle lane because it had no border, dashed, solid or otherwise. See the picture here.
The west-bound death occurred where there is nothing at all, just an ‘ordinary’ road. There was no segregation (or even a cycle lane) in either case.
If we had some ham we could have ham and eggs, if we had some eggs. But we don’t even have the chicken.
The Dutch way. It would be nice, but none of us will live to see that Utopia here. To build that stuff – and to enforce the laws that make it work – you need political will. That needs votes. And not enough people cycle for that. Those who say we need to go Dutch to get that many people cycling are probably right. So no chicken, no eggs. And as for the ham: when Dutch baconers sprout wings to fly the North Sea!
We are where we are, stuck in a country with an anti-cycling culture where the best that can be done is damage limitation (whilst trying to promote a cultural shift). The damage at Bow is most serious: people have been killed and more will surely die thanks to this misbegotten scheme. These victims are not and will not be nervous cyclists, not if they’re brave enough to ride a bike anywhere near Bow already. Seems to me that (C) is the least bad thing we stand any chance of getting in time to save another life.
We just need to get more people cycling… we just need to get more people cycling… we just need to get more people cycling. THEN we’ll have the political will.
The rallying cry for, what, decades?
People aren’t cycling, and they won’t unless it feels safe and inviting. That won’t involve cycle lanes sandwiched between vehicle carriageways (the horrible and deadly approach on Blackfriars). It will involve European-style infrastructure – the kind that is being implemented now in many places in the United Kingdom, and which Boris has now signed up to. The right approach is to make sure standards are enforced; not to pretend that we’ll never get good design until everyone already cycles.
I didn’t start cycling til rather late in life. I was reluctant for the same reason most of my non-cycling friends were – doing so on London roads appeared terrifying.
Having finally taken the plunge, I have hugely mixed feelings. I find the positives are substantial – its great exercise, way faster and more reliable than public transport, and cheap.
But I also feel my reasons for being reluctant to start doing so have been entirely vindicated – roads are indeed borrible to cycle on, road planners seem, much of the time, to be actively trying to kill me, and a very large proportion of drivers (the majority, even) appear to believe that the highway code (and the law) is something for other people;
(And is there a single traffic warden anywhere in London? Cars and lorries park just about anywhere they please, in ASLs, in mandatory solid-white-line cycle lanes, on double yellows, on white hatched lines, right on top of ‘keep clear’ markings, double-parked to as to block the road, and halfway down dedicated cycle paths that nobody could mistake for a road – and nothing is ever done about it.)
I feel a bit alienated from what I’ve heard others call ‘the cult of vehicular cycling’. Because it appears to display a macho elitist attitude, that takes-for-granted that cycling is some sort of dangerous sport, in which you demonstrate your manliness by your technical mastery of roadcraft, and your ability to tweak-the-nose-of-fear. From personal experience I know there is no way 90% of potential cyclists will ever bother trying, if that’s the attitude hard-core cylcists project.
I’m not against ‘vehicular cycling’ as a pragmatic practice for actual existing cyclists, but it has to be acknolwedged that it has a fundamental flaw – a bike is not treated as a vehicle by motorists (or even pedestrians) and it does not give you the protection (or ability to implicitly threaten others!) that a vehicle does.
So personally I’m persuaded more by the “Dutch” advocates, even though I share the above poster’s pessimism as to whether anything can really change.
Both options seem hopelessly optimistic – persauding more people to cycle given current conditions (by all becoming as fearless, assertive and tehcnically competent as the vehicular cyclist crowd), and persuading politicians to adopt better infrastructure given the low numbers of cyclists. But the latter just seems marginally less hopeless to me, so I’d go with that.
What a defeatist attitude, Chris! If we demand nothing from the government, we will get nothing. Should the suffragettes have just asked for permission to influence their husbands’ votes? Should Wilberforce have campaigned for slaves to have the weekend off?
Extreme examples, I know, but both movements which seemed as impossible and unlikely as flying pigs at one time. Proper Netherlands-style cycling infrastructure is possible in the UK – it’s not utopia, it’s civil engineering guidelines which already exist – and if we push hard enough we will get it.
I am from Tower Hamlets Wheelers (London Cyling Campaign) and would like to talk with you. Could you contact me? email@example.com
Gerry Matthews (THW)
Another fatality today.. how sad and how fruitless the last year has been.
It’s time London stopped messing about, go over to the Netherlands, do a study tour, then come home with a copy of their design manual.
And another and another.
I can’t see it happening Mark. I can see them scrapping the whole idea … or, after Boris’ rather daft comments today, I can see a very unhappy cyclist getting in a van and mowing B down at said junction!
Great post – well observed. This junction has changed out of recognition since I used to use it not so long ago (2011-2012). Mostly I used the flyover, which meant me and drivers were in a more normal situation vis-a-vis each other – not safe, but something we’re used to and therefore more predictable.