A half-hearted junction review from Transport for London

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.

A lorry turning right into Prince of Wales Drive. The design suggests cyclists will cycle on the outside of this truck as it turns right

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?

Looking south from the existing, unwidened, pedestrian island

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.

No pedestrian crossing here. Take six crossings instead, all the way around the junction

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.

When will we start seeing infrastructure like this in London?

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.

A cycle track behind a bus stop, created by moving the bus stop out into the traffic flow

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.

The LTN 2/08 solution – rubbish pavement conversions. A waste of space on Battersea Park Road, northbound

Not good enough. And not addressed by this juntion review process.

You can add your comments on the consultation here.

This entry was posted in Go Dutch, Infrastructure, Junction Review, LCC, London, Smoothing traffic flow, Transport for London. Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to A half-hearted junction review from Transport for London

  1. If this is what passes for cycling infrastructure in England these days, I’m glad I moved out in the 1980s, before they started faffing about painting the roads.

    Hopefully, these ‘facilities’ will encourage more cyclists to ignore them and instead take and hold primary position in the general traffic lane.

    • Charlie says:

      It might encourage current cyclists to do that. But It sure as hell won’t encourage people who don’t currently cycle to give it a go. Quite the reverse.

      • If ‘giving cycling a go’ were more important than keeping cyclists safe, then I would have to agree with you. But in my opinion, safety is job #1.

        Currently, cycling advocacy groups seem far too concerned with getting people on saddles and nowhere near concerned enough with keeping them safe after they’ve got them there. As long as that situation exists, I will fight against what I see as blind support for infrastructure. Why? Because I want to see more people cycling. If we kill them, they won’t come – and neither will anyone else.

        • For once I am actually inclined to agree with you, because I believe that “safety in numbers” is bunkum and it seems that the more conservative elements of the cycling establishment are just about realising that you get numbers by making things safer. They for so long could not differentiate between causation and correlation.

          I don’t really belong to the whole “encouraging cycling” philosophy, I realise that there are numerous spatial planning / demographic / etc nuances to increasing modal share and safety, and a cohesive network of well designed infrastructure that provides a prioritised route for cyclists is part of, but not the entire, solution. There are of course, many good reasons to try and get people on saddles which I won’t bother to reiterate, but in the UK local authorities have generally been very slow to respond to increasing demand for cycling as a response to pressures on other modes of transport. When I visited Liverpool I saw a road that had recently been widened and a central reservation added, which simply encourages more motor traffic and makes cycle journeys longer by restricting certain turns.

          But what we see here is not blind support for infrastructure (the proposed design is remarked upon as an improvement but still somewhat halfhearted) – I don’t think any of us are silly enough to think that 20 miles of cycle lane in one town is twice as good than 10 miles somewhere else. That is the sort of thing a politician would say to try and distract us.

        • And vehicular cycling advocacy has shown great success in the UK and USA? The death and injury rates in the UK and USA are far higher than in the Netherlands, per mile, per person, per journey – however you slice the figures.

          This blog (and others like it) don’t have “blind support for infrastructure”. The very blog post you’re commenting on is actually attacking poor infrastructure – and I’ve done the same on my blog.

          Good infrastructure (of the kind we’re asking for) is safer than riding on the road – Dutch safety figures prove this. The problems with it are political, not technical.

          You can’t escape the fact that the Netherlands has the most cyclists and the safest cyclists – whereas the USA and UK have almost no cyclists and the accident rate is very high. People simply don’t want to ride a bike amongst cars and lorries and vans, we’ve had 30 years of campaigns to ‘encourage’ cycling in the UK and nothing to show for it.

          You say you’ve cycled extensively in the Netherlands, can you tell us how long ago this was?

          • At least vehicular cyclists care enough about cyclists’ safety to put safety first. And we are ridiculed for it.

            • What sort of answer is that?

              The problem for you is that it’s safer to cycle in the Netherlands than it is to cycle in the USA. Cyclists in the Netherlands are injured or killed less often than cyclists in the USA. So how can their system be – as you called it recently – “legalized state execution of innocent cyclists”?

              It is you who is working against making cycling a safe activity for all.

              • kvanvelzen says:

                Not just a little bit less often.
                John Pucher, 2008: “Both fatality and injury rates are much higher for cyclists in the USA and the UK than in Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands. Averaged over the years 2002 to 2005, the number of bicyclist fatalities per 100 million km cycled was 5.8 in the USA and 3.6 in the UK, compared to 1.7 in Germany, 1.5 in Denmark, and 1.1 in the Netherlands (see Figure 10). Thus, cycling is over five times as safe in the Netherlands as in the USA and more than three times as safe as in the UK.
                Figure 10 compares non-fatal injury rates per 10 million km cycled side by side with fatality rates per 100 million km cycled. For all five countries, these statistics rely on police reports. Without exception, the cycling safety ranking for countries is the same for injuries as for fatalities. Thus, the Netherlands has the lowest non-fatal injury rate as well as the lowest fatality rate, while the USA has the highest non-fatal injury rate as well as the highest fatality rate. Indeed, the non-fatal injury rate for the USA is about 8 times higher than for Germany and about 30 times higher than for the Netherlands and Denmark. The injury rate in the UK is second highest, but much lower than in the USA. ” (NL 1.4; DK 1.7; GER 4.7; UK 6.0 and US 37.5!)
                http://policy.rutgers.edu/faculty/pucher/irresistible.pdf pages 505/506, or 12 and 13 of the pdf.
                One cycling vacation in the Netherlands in 1980 doesn’t make you an expert on Dutch infrastructure, Ian. And it’s selfish. How about the disabled, the elderly and young children. “Take the lane”?? And cycle boldly between trucks at a speed of about 8 mph?

            • haagse hop says:

              Ian Brett Cooper, are you stark raving mad ? Do you really think I would be safe on UK roads, riding a trycicle with low speed? Next to buses and lorries with a much higher speed? You don’t care at all for my safety, nor for the safety of children if they had to ride their bikes to school through heavy traffic. If the Netherlands had the same lousy and dangerous roads and infrastructure as the UK I would not have the freedom and opportunities to go by bike where I want to . Go on, take the road if you want to , just do not force others to do the same because you don’t want to give them a choice.

        • The comments above me have essentially made this point already, but no-one (at least no-one I know) has ‘blind support’ for infrastructure. We want roads that are designed to offer the highest levels of safety, both objectively and subjectively. Nobody supports cruddy rubbish; we want continental best practice, which has a proven track record.

          As you might see from a search for ‘safety in numbers’ in this blog, I don’t have any particular desire to encourage people ‘on to saddles’ without creating a safe environment for them to cycle in. I think we should make cycling an attractive option by *making it safe* (and feel safe too), and more cycling will follow naturally.

          • Simon says:

            You might have seen that legocyclist posted a comment in response to the Alternative DfT’s latest blog:

            “What can we as mere mortals do to turn the tide? Lobbying? Petitions? Protest rides? FOI requests? Presenting those in power with a blueprint for success?

            “Whatever it is, it needs to be part of a sustained and determined campaign that needs to be coordinated at all levels from Westminster to the local town / city hall. And it needs us all to be singing from the same hymn sheet. We need to be very clear what we are asking for and how it can best be delivered.”

            What exactly are we asking for? More cycling in towns and cities – fewer journeys under five miles made by car – better quality of the urban environment – happier, healthier population. Okay, but how is this best achieved? Is it network first, and then a separation of functions? Or quality infrastructure first, and then join up the pieces? (If there is a third way, I’m sorry; I’m not aware of it.)

            You will of course have heard that Norman Baker has made available £20m for cycling. Another comment on the Alternative DfT blog was from Mark, a traffic engineer in one of the biking boroughs. He worked out that if this money was spread out evenly around the country, each individual highways authority would receive about £129k (i.e. sod all). Mark went on to say:

            “The final problem is the lack of strategic plans many authorities have, and it is often left up to the engineers (if there are any) to try and plan. We are good at it, but it would be so much better if there was plan which we could implement over time and do it properly.”

            £129k is going to buy you almost nothing if you pursue the quality infrastructure first approach, which probably explains why David Arditti has said: “We need a billion a year, just to start to get the momentum up, just to start to catch up with our more advanced continental neighbours.”

            But why not start by taking a network first approach, and thereafter pursue a separation of functions? No really, why not?

            “While we do nothing,” Crossrider recently opined, “people die […]. The point is to change London into a cycle-friendly city as quickly as possible.”

            The most effective way to make this change, whether or not hundreds of millions of pounds is available, is network first. If you disagree with this, then please, won’t you say so? Crossrider again:

            “There needs to be a single, London-wide vision of a network of quality, subjectively safe, Continental-style infrastructure, and not a penny should be spent on schemes that are not aligned with that vision.”

            “The crucial point [is] that cycle infrastructure is not about spot treatments […] and isolated interventions: we need to start by defining the desired end-state.”

            And the desired end-state is …?

            Routes that are meaningful and direct and pleasant (where possible) seem to me to be absolutely essential. (When I say that a route has to be meaningful, I mean that it has to go from somewhere to somewhere.) More than this, routes need to be safe and smooth and seamless. However, if routes are not safe and smooth and seamless now, this can be changed; but if routes are not meaningful and direct and pleasant now, then most likely they will never be meaningful and direct and pleasant, ever. So that means we can – and indeed should – prioritise between the various features of the desired end-state.

            Identifying routes that are meaningful and direct and pleasant is something that can only be done during the ‘planning’ phase, and creating routes which are safe and smooth and seamless is something that can only be done during the ‘development’ phase; so there ought to be no debate about what comes first.

            @ christhebull: You say that a cohesive network of well designed infrastructure that provides a prioritised route for cyclists is part of, but not the entire, solution. That’s fair enough. But would you care to say what the other parts of the solution are, and also tell us which of them, if any, are more important than a cohesive network.

            @ aseasyasriding: You say that no one has ‘blind support’ for infrastructure, but is it fair to say that there is considerable support for the idea of safety first? If yes, is your immediate concern for the safety of existing cyclists, or for would-be or might-do cyclists?

            • JayJay says:

              The third way? Why, that’s the utterly cruddy, near useless approach that the authorities in the UK have been pursuing for thirty years.

  2. Andrea says:

    Horrible, horrible, so horrible.
    The cycle lane in the middle of the road is a recipe for disaster.
    What we need here is segragated lanes with an all-cycle traffic light phase

  3. I volunteer at Battersea, but I’ve pretty much given up cycling there. The bike lanes that bypass Vauxhall are regularly blocked by cabs and Tesco’s HGVs, Nine Elms Lane is fast, hostile, and the development of new housing has led to the removal of the bus/bike lane. This junction is frankly, intimidating, and the ‘shared space’ pavement bike lane is possibly one of the worst in London.

    Instead, I get the bus, and have to choose between six crossings to get across a road 20 feet wide, or dashing between cars, because there’s no proper crossing in front of the home. I cycle to work every day, but this is one place I just can’t see myself cycling to.

    • @angus_fx says:

      Liz – not sure where you’re coming in from, but going north of the river to avoid that lot may be an option. I used to work Waterloo & live the other side of Battersea park, found the Embankment (even pre Superhighway) much preferable to Vauxhall Gyratory & Nine Elms Lane, very much worth the detour. CS8 is a bit insane in the rush hour nowadays, but the rest of the day it’s pretty civilised.

      The giveaway that they’re tinkering around the edges here (or, to be more charitable, hoping to fix some of the more pressing hazards in a short time & on a small budget) is that they’re reviewing this junction in isolation, and not together with the system of adjacent junctions of which it’s a part (Queenstown Rd & Queens Circus). If the rest of the system isn’t even in the review, how can they hope to find the best solution? Dutch, it ain’t.

  4. For once I find myself in agreement with Ian Brett Cooper.

    This “infrastructure” (it’s not even worthy of the word) is so poor-quality that both the Foresterites and the Hembrowists are in agreement – nobody wants this type of facility! So why do they keep installing this stuff? It’s a poor compromises that pleases no-one.

    It’s a waste of money, the best that can be said about it is that some of it isn’t as bad as what’s there already. (That gutter cycle lane is a bad joke, but then so is the bike lane sandwiched between two regular lanes!)

    But will it make the junction safer? Will it make more people start riding bikes? Would I want children or the elderly to ride here? The answer to all these questions is no, therefore it has failed on all counts.

  5. mk says:

    I can kind of understand the thought behind the kerbing on POWD, as it would encourage motorists to keep right and therefore leave the cycle approach lane free for bicycles. But you’re right, you’d really need some kerbing going into Battersea Park Rd, as it’s a pretty fast corner that vehicles are likely to take using a pretty tight line (which your photo shows).

    I’m also surprised they’ve gone for the feeder lane between two motor vehicle lanes. Wasn’t that the exact cause of catastrophe at Blackfriars?

    • Yes, I suppose my objection to that bit of kerb is that it is so piecemeal, and almost serves as an illustration of how little is being proposed elsewhere in the junction, even in the really obvious places.

    • Simon says:

      @ mk: You ask, Wasn’t the positioning of a cycle lane between two motor vehicle lanes the exact cause of catastrophe at Blackfriars? No, not exactly. At the northern end of the junction, the layout was: left-turn – cycle lane – straight ahead. This layout was extended back towards the southern side of the bridge. About halfway along the bridge was a bus stop. There were three bus routes that crossed the bridge, and all of them needed to go straight on, which meant that all of them needed to cut across the cycle lane. It was one of these buses that killed Vicki McCreery.

  6. AJ says:

    That sweeping curve is a perfect place for proper segregation. A real cycle “track” in the Dutch style would be off-carriageway, avoiding the traffic signals completely to the cyclists benefit and removing any chance of conflict by vehicles cutting the corner. The carriageway could be narrowed dramatically as there would be no need for cyclists to be on it at all due to the adjacent track, and the ASL would not be required.

    Any pedestrian crossing could be dealt with by a crossing point a-la the new Bow consultation.

  7. I’ve filled in the survey and put a link to your blog post in my response. I hope everyone else does the same, it really only takes two secs.

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