Going round in circles on Stratford High Street

Transport for London have created a video to explain how you turn right on a bicycle at major junctions on the Superhighway 2 Extension on Stratford High Street.

It is described as a ‘two stage right turn’, but in reality it looks a bit more complicated than that. In fact, much more complicated than that.

Screen shot 2013-08-29 at 19.15.36The procedure for turning right is

  • to progress through the junction – indeed, some distance beyond it
  • to turn left and mount the pavement
  • double back on yourself
  • to rejoin the carriageway in the ASL, before proceeding on the next green signal.

It goes without saying that this is far from obvious. Indeed, the fact that a video explanation has had to be prepared about how to ‘use’ this junction shows how complicated it is.

There is absolutely no reason why a two-stage right turn – the standard way of making these kinds of movements on equivalent Danish or Dutch junctions – needs to be this counterintuitive. What is being created here is a mess, that puts those on foot, and those on bicycles, into conflict.

It should surely have been simpler to provide a direct route to the ASL on the south side of the carriageway. This is, in fact, the kind of arrangement that is being proposed at a junction in Southampton, with a ‘waiting pocket’ that you can enter easily, and wait for a green signal to make your second crossing (thanks to Phil Marshall for reminding me).

Screen shot 2013-08-29 at 22.38.30This is close to the Danish approach  of simply waiting at the side of the road for your second crossing. Now I don’t think it is anywhere near as good as the Dutch approach, which protects you while waiting, and also allows ‘free’ left turns at all times. But it would be really easy to implement, and would involve no conflict with pedestrians, as well as being much more direct and understandable than what Transport for London are currently going to build.

As many people pointed out on Twitter, the sign says it all.

As many people pointed out on Twitter, the sign says it all.

TfL can’t say they weren’t warned; the Cycling Embassy response to the consultation had this to say –

The method for making right turns at the large junction of Rick Roberts Way appears to be by progressing through the junction, then mounting the pavement to enter the ASL in the side road, and waiting for a green signal. While this allows right turns to be made without having to negotiate across multiple lanes of motor traffic, and resembles (in principle) the Danish ‘left hook’ method of making these turns, we feel that there is possibility for confusion, and conflict with pedestrians. We would like to see dedicated cycle-specific waiting areas for those on cycles waiting to complete the second stage of a right turn, either on the Danish model, or the superior design of the Dutch model, which incorporates protected kerbs.

These suggestions have obviously been ignored. 

The presence of ASLs on the main carriageway itself is revealing, because it demonstrates that Transport for London do not expect people to use this design. The ASLs are there for those people who, quite reasonably, do not want to waste their time faffing around doing 270° turns on the pavement. But this is what happens when you design for two different categories of cyclist.

As I wrote in a long post way back in May last year, if you start from the assumption that ‘fast cyclists’ won’t want to use what you are designing before you have even built it, then you open the door to compromise. Namely, the construction of slow, fiddly rubbish just like what we are seeing at this junction, ‘designed’ for those ‘nervous’ or ‘less confident’ cyclists who apparently don’t mind being unnecessarily inconvenienced (it is curious why it is nearly always assumed that people who don’t like cycling in motor traffic are happy to take so much longer to reach their destination).

The Dutch, by contrast, design infrastructure that everybody on a bike wants to use, and will use; infrastructure that is both objectively and subjectively safe, and fast and convenient for all users, regardless of age, speed or ability. Quality is ensured when you create designs that cater for everyone.

One kind of user.

One kind of user.

Another kind of user.

Another kind of user.

Is this lesson being learned?

This entry was posted in Boris Johnson, Cycle Superhighways, Cycling policy, Go Dutch, Infrastructure, LCC, London, Subjective safety, The Netherlands, Transport for London. Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to Going round in circles on Stratford High Street

  1. I pray nobody gets killed getting it wrong. If I’m not mistaken this is possibly a way to turn more cyclists into organ donors. How on earth is this in our favour? Thank you for bringing it to my attention, I’ll be sure to avoid the area.

  2. Dmitri F says:

    I don’t get it, why not just go into the ASL box right away without the whole long loop thing?

    All they had to do was move the cycle box forward stop line back, making the cycle box a little smaller but retaining enough space in front of it for cyclists to wait… it works in Copenhagen, why OH WHY can’t traffic engineers ever just learn from other countries?

    • Richard Mann says:

      There’s a pedestrian crossing in the way. They could probably have pushed everything back, but it would knock a few percent off the junction capacity. They could have provided a gap in the pedestrian island, but that would have led to cyclist/pedestrian conflicts in a constricted space. Probably the best option in the circumstances is to make an explicit track for the looping back manoeuvre. Best of a bad job.

      • Dmitri F says:

        I would say moving everything back 2m shouldn’t have been too terrible, I would even say that they could reduce the size of the cycle box by 2m to compensate… I doubt it would have such a huge impact on the junction capacity. They obviously managed it in Southampton. Also ped crossings are rarely right next to the junction, there is always a few meters of space for large vehicles to turn, this space would have been enough.

        I mean there doesn’t really need to be a loop either, most cyclists can just adjust their bikes manually as long as there is a space for them…

        Seems to be an overcomplicated solution to a simple and proven problem, especially given the solution presented here from Southampton…

  3. It takes a lot of bond-villain style madness (or serious drugs) to come up with something that convoluted and bad, and which manages to introduce a load more conflict than is necessary.
    It is almost perverse.

    As you say & I tweeted, the fact that they have made an instructional video explaining how to navigate sums highlights how wrong and counter intuitive it is.

    This is no way to invest serious money in cycling and will not encourage the masses that cycling is safe and convenient. It’ll be largely ignored and just piss everyone off – cyclists, pedestrians, and drivers in one fell swoop

  4. davidhembrow says:

    There is simply no reason for a two-stage turn at junctions like this. The Simultaneous Green style of junction scales to any size, prioritizes cyclists, takes no more room than a normal junction (just need the feeder lanes in their existing plan feeding to a 5 metre long kerb – could even be armadillos at a pinch – to separate from the car lane).

    This doesn’t require cyclists to stop twice, doesn’t cause a problem for those pulling trailers or otherwise encumbered, but it does allow for free left turns and it keeps cyclists separate from motor vehicles in both time and space which makes it much safer than the solution you are proposing.

    It’s tried and tested, popular with cyclists and can be seen at hundreds of traffic light junctions in this part of The Netherlands.

    Please don’t campaign for second best solutions involving two stage turns.

    • radii8 says:

      I participated in the TfL cycle trials and the feedback from those participating in the trial was unanimous – the 2 stage turns are not at all intuitive and likely to be ignored. Unfortunately, the people running the trials had no say in the design – it had apparently been dreamed up by TfL who were intent on implementing at any cost rather than rethink the model. So it would appear feedback from participants was not taken on board by TfL after all.

  5. Hm. I agree that having to cross multiple lanes of traffic is bad, and that the TfL proposal is rubbish, but I don’t see how the Southampton proposal is any better.

    1. It is far from intuitive, though I could probably learn how it is supposed to be used. Am I right in assuming that the standalone blue boxes with a straight-on arrow would be where I would wait to turn right? That’s weird if so.

    2. It seems I would still have to wait at two red lights to get through one junction, which is inconvenient.

    3. It doesn’t provide segregation, so I would still feel a need to adopt Cyclecraft/Bikeability principles. This means I would wish to take the centre of the main traffic lane through the junction to avoid, among other things, getting left hooked; something I experienced quite often before I learned about claiming the lane, and still experience on those occasions when I don’t.

    4. The emphasis seems to be on getting cyclists out of the way of important motorists rather than providing a safer cycling environment.

    5. I would expect that, if I use the ASLs, I would still be subjected to aggressive bullying from drivers like this one: http://youtu.be/3iSHdEym9G4

    I’m really trying to see how your alternative proposal would constitute good cycling infrastructure, but it just seems to make matters worse, at least for a commuter like myself.

    • It’s not really my alternative proposal – the purpose was just to demonstrate that there isn’t a need to fiddle people around the pavements.

      I think you’re quite right to point out that the Southampton design might fall between two stools – not convenient enough for people already cycling, and not subjectively safe enough for anyone new to cycling.

  6. I’d NEVER use that.

    Indicate right, look over shoulder, move into right lane when safe and turn right.

  7. Michael J says:

    Also making these sudden right-angled turns (in this case to get onto the pavement) are a big problem with current cycling infrastructure, for example when there’s an off-road or on-pavement track but to get onto it safely you need to almost stop, dangerous when there’s vehicles or other bicycles behind. They shouldn’t be introducing more. Were it a smooth looping continuous cycle path it might be better – I’m sure a video of a busy Dutch junction with them has been posted before with a similar setup. Their reasoning might have been that at the moment there are very few pedestrians on most of Stratford High Street (it’s basically a big 3 lane highway, don’t be confused by the ‘High Street’ name), but with improvements to cycling facilities that could start to change (there’s certainly a lot of new flats that have been built along it in the last few years)

  8. fonant says:

    Why do they keep inventing more creative ways of making crap cycle facilities, when there are known, proven, solutions that already exist?

    @RichardMann: surely knocking a few percent off the junction capacity for motor vehicles isn’t a problem, and in fact sends all the right messages for people moving around London. The total junction capacity for human beings can only ever increase if more people take to bikes, walking or buses, leaving their cars at home. The whole obsession with motor vehicle capacity at junctions is why we’re so behind the rest of the world, and why the UK’s roads are so terrible for non-motorised users. We should be designing roads and streets for people, not for motor vehicles.

  9. Tim says:

    So that section of pavement is intended to be used by both pedestrians and cyclists going in both directions all at the same time? Without markings to indicate who should be where?

    It really winds me up that cyclists are forced to play with the lorries almost all the time – under no circumstances may they ride on the pavements! – unless of course it’s convenient to allow them to do so, in which case it’s fine. How can cyclists be blamed for getting mixed messages? Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to ride on the pavements, but I don’t want to play with lorries either.

    And why is the cyclist in the video lying down on their bike? (sorry 🙂

    In Copenhagen it took us all of one or two goes to get used to the “left hook” turns, although it’s mildly annoying to wait twice sometimes, and I think this system only works well because it’s the usual default behaviour in Denmark. What about visitors to Stratford; will they have to watch the video too?

    Another thought, I guess we should be careful of using a name (left hook) to describe a manoeuvre which is also used to describe a type of collision in the UK – I realise it’s because we’re on the other side of the road.

    • bz2 says:

      I can think of one such left hook junction in the Netherlands, complete with non-standard advisory sign:


      Not at all recommended design, and probably gone by the next time that junction gets resurfaced.

    • pm says:

      What makes those mixed messages even worse is the existence of ‘shared use pavements’ that don’t have a marked ending – instead they just sort of…peter out. The already sparsely placed shared-use signs (which tend to finally pop up just when you are starting to wonder ‘is this still shared use? am I supposed to still be on here?’) just sort of stop reappearing, leaving you to slowly realise you are now illegally cycling on a normal pavement. Dropped kerbs to allow you actually leave the pavement are of course entirely absent.

      Closely related are Toucan crossings where one end seems to lead to a non-shared use pavement (is it shared use by implication because of the presence of the Toucan crossing? Who knows?)

      Once you get used to these lackadaisically-marked shared-use pavements, there’s a danger you just stay on the pavement as, you know, it might be shared-use, who can tell?

  10. paul gannon says:

    This is dreadful – just more of the awful British-style infrastructure falsely promoted as ‘safe’ & dressed up a to look a bit like continental solutions (even though you’d never find such a stupid solution elsewhere & showing how British traffic engineers do not understand the difference between style & functionality). It’s unusable, dangerous, confusing, invents cyclist/pedestrian conflict & is wholly unnecessary – as some simple tweaks to the junction layout would make a true continental style approach possible.

    It is, I’m afraid, as AEARAB says, due to the falsehood that there are two types of cyclist, the experienced, confident cyclist who is not afraid to mix it with the motors; and the incompetent, inexperienced, frightened, lilly-white types who wish to proceed at little more than walking pace until they too shed their foolish fears & are able to join the big boys in lycra and adopt grown up tools fixed wheels & silly shoes that you can’t walk in.

    The falsehood derives from the peculiarly British idea that segregated cycle tracks are only for the latter types and are second best to the real thing, ‘vehicular cycling’. Rubbish. Road cycling is for the insensitive & the desensitised & I do not wish to be forced into such an undesirable state. As a very experienced cyclist I conclude that good-quality cycle networks, such as you see on the continent are great to cycle on & make road cycling seem like self-flagellation.

    We are making progress in some ways, establishing the idea that segregated tracks are vital to stimulating cycling levels. But the old-fashioned views of the British cycling activist establishment still have a lot of influence and give sustenance to the British traffic engineers’ ‘botch it’ culture when it comes to cycling.

    Anyway, congratulations to TfL for maintaining the deeply ingrained British traffic engineers’ tradition of inventing cycle ‘facilities’ that invite ridicule. This is truly a potential prize winner in that category.

    More seriously, two urgent questions need to be urgently addressed in this country. 1 – why are our engineers so useless? & 2 – what can we do to change the situation?

  11. Paul Vincent says:

    This convoluted solution gives cyclists wishing to turn right two chances to be crushed by a left-turning lorry, once at each “stage”! Will they at least get a head-start green phase at the second lights, to avoid this?

    Other than that, there is a small advantage for left-turning cyclists coming from the more minor road, as they can now legally turn left on the red light, using the shared use pavement.

  12. Har Davids says:

    Are the people of TfL morons, or do they just hate all non-motorists? I understand that reading our Continental diagrams and maps may pose a bit of of problem with you Brits insisting on driving and cycling on the left, but people can learn, can’t they? If they do, they’ll avoid coming up with this kind of crap.

  13. Clark in Vancouver says:

    It makes one wonder if there isn’t some intentional conspiracy thing going on. They can no longer get away with declaring that they don’t want to encourage cycling but the sentiment is still there, so they smile and say that they are doing something and then design stuff that will be bad. They probably do know what works well in the Netherlands and Denmark and are using it as a guide of what to avoid, lest they cause a better situation for cycling.
    Not to be all conspiracy theorizing but this is the English here, they have centuries of skill in dominating and in speaking out of both sides of their mouth.

  14. It’s not just ped-cycle conflict either…

    Cycling along a fast moving road on a narrow blue strip and expected to turn left into a narrow gap which immediately does a 270 degree loop?

    Only ways to do it –
    a) move right, into the traffic, to get a bit of a turning circle;
    b) slow down to a crawl meaning any bicycles behind you will have to pull out into the traffic to get round – and also increasing the danger of any fast-moving motor vehicles clipping you.

    Just dangerous nonsense top to bottom.

  15. http://goo.gl/maps/JjhaK

    This one here turning from the A100 to the A1210 at Tower Hill is difficult and dangerous enough to get on to – have to swing out at speed in flow of very fast moving traffic – but even that doesn’t do a sudden 270 degree turn!

    Also huge potential for conflict with pedestrians here, as there is no way to slow or stop to wait for pedestrians here – as you have all the speeding traffic bearing down behind you.

    (don’t actually know if that is actually meant as a cycle path as there is no signage or road markings… but what else could it be?)

  16. Fred says:

    Cyclists will turn left in to the oncoming carriageway and then do a tight turn rather than go past the junction, jump on to the pavement (requiring them to swerve out in to the carriageway to make the 90 degree turn) and cycle back on the pavement.

    This is sub standard and people wonder why cyclists ignore this kind of thing – it just doesn’t work.

    In Leyton there’s an even better one where a cycle lane leads to a traffic island where you wait for the light to change to continue. However the light only changes when you press a little button on the other side of the road. Classic.

    Notice the lack of a button on the island – I was left there for ages before I realised I wasn’t going to get a turn!

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