Cheapside – a video is not an adequate response to bad road design

The City of London have brought out what they presumably believe to be a charming ‘road safety’ video, entitled ‘Handle Like Eggs’.

The presenter of the video informs us that it is really important we ‘share the streets, safely.’ This is, apparently, because the City has ‘a global financial centre, packed into a medieval street pattern.’

The implication of these comments is that there really is no alternative to ‘sharing the road’ when you are riding a bike; that the City cannot do anything to separate bicycle traffic from motor traffic. Especially on streets like Cheapside, where it is ‘especially important to share safely.’

This is utter tosh. The reason people using bikes are being forced to ‘share’ the road with motorists is because the City has created a street design that pushes the two into conflict. The City Cyclists blog has assiduously documented the history of this £3 million scheme, pointing out that despite claims it will ‘greatly benefit cyclists’, it is actually deeply unpopular. Nobody riding here wants to have to place themselves directly in front of motor traffic to prevent dangerous overtakes, yet this is what you have to do. Likewise it is often impossible to filter on this street when it is congested with motor traffic. You simply have to sit behind buses and lorries, and breathe in the fumes.

This is not a consequence of the ‘medieval street pattern’. It is a consequence of the City creating a deliberately narrow carriageway.

Picture taken during the closed roads of the RIde London event. No children here ordinarily

Picture taken during the closed roads of the RIde London event. No children here ordinarily

There’s a vast amount of space here, but the City have pushed bike users and buses into the same tiny bit of road.

You can see this same scene in the City’s own video –

Medieval street pattern?

Medieval street pattern?

The pavement is so wide here, you can see a lorry parked on it, behind the presenter.

Screen shot 2013-09-10 at 16.38.18

Now obviously taking carriageway space and reallocating it to pedestrians is a good thing, in and of itself. But frankly a huge opportunity to create safe and attractive cycling conditions on Cheapside has been lost.

There wouldn’t be any need for videos like this if the street had been designed differently. The impatient overtaking attempts illustrated in the video simply wouldn’t happen. The left hook as the cyclist enters an ASL wouldn’t happen. And, most importantly, there wouldn’t be any need to tell you to cycle in the middle of the road.

Who wants to do this?

Who wants to do this?

The simple truth is that the City have built a street that engenders conflict between people riding bikes and people driving, and have to had to resort to a silly video to try and ameliorate the consequences. If they had just designed the street with proper, protected space for cycling in the first place, it wouldn’t have been necessary.

Sadly I don’t think they are paying attention.

This entry was posted in Absurd transport solutions, City of London, Infrastructure, London, Pinch points, Road rage, Subjective safety. Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to Cheapside – a video is not an adequate response to bad road design

  1. Mark_E14 says:

    It looks like an expensive piece of PR fluff to deflect from something that they must now tacitly admit to have been a dangerous and short-sighted design – carried out against the recommendations of cyclists. Why else would they pick Cheapside, of all the options? They could have saved money by training a fixed camera on the road itself, rather than the patronising cartoon eggs. There’d be plenty of shots of real drivers on their phones, or shooting through red lights, or bullying ‘take the lane’ cyclists into the gutter.
    Can we expect the same eggs to appear on a TfL video telling us how to cycle across Blackfriars Bridge?

  2. Andre Engels says:

    One remark that I have still missed about this video: Where is that egg-car waiting for the lights? Right – in the Advanced Stopping Lane! But that is not even hinted of in the text. Apparently cycling in the cycling lane is a bigger no-no than driving a car there….

  3. Peter says:

    Sheesh…just build us the damn cycle lanes!

  4. fonant says:

    Sharing the streets is the problem, not the solution!

    There’s nothing wrong with “a global financial centre, packed into a medieval street pattern” at all, in fact it’s eminently on a human scale, making walking and cycling obvious choices for transport. The problem is that they’ve tried to make the streets for people into roads for dangerous motor vehicles, something that medieval people would never have even dreamed of!

  5. Who is this video for?

    Are London bus drivers going to watch it? How about the taxi drivers?

    I don’t understand how this video is going to influence the behaviour of drivers, or cyclists either for that matter. The vast majority will never see this. It’s a pointless waste of money.

    What’s the point? I don’t get it.

  6. So not going to be spending valuable money on removing HGV’s and making it 20mph then. In reality, he’d have driven off and left her for scrambled. Oh and the comment about not getting in drivers blind spots, most modern cars have so many blind spots, how and any cyclist not be in them especially when the cars are moving. Let alone HGVs, I know to stand so I can see the driver in the mirror, but what do you do when they are moving?
    The roads in the City are all relatively wide, they could make them all one way, widen the pavement – most of the traffic in the city is on foot, have a narrow, hard to negotiate road section for HGV’s and cars so they have to go slowly (encouraging them to avoid it if they can, even make it a toll road), a bus/taxi lane. again, only just wide enough and a two way cycle lane. There’s ample room to do this in most of the square mile’s main roads. The side roads could be deliveries and bikes only, they like one way systems and blocking off roads, there are usually cameras there anyway, you can’t drive into the square mile without the City Police knowing about it, it would make their job even easier.

  7. legocyclist says:

    I don’t know where to begin. Somebody is clearly missing Tufty and his pals! This is twee, patronising, insulting and just plain wrong. It makes it sound as though using a mobile phone whilst driving is just a little bit naughty rather than illegal and dangerous. Also, as mentioned above, it completely ignores the issue of cars encroaching into ASLs. In short, it trivialises reckless driver behaviour and puts the onus on cyclists to ‘take the lane’ and ‘don’t get into blind spots’.

    All this says to me is: “Hey cyclists – stop being a victim and be assertive and when the nasty motorists shouts at you for holding them up, you can just direct them to this wonderful video. I’m sure they’ll watch it, realise the errors of their ways and change their behaviour forever more.”

  8. The fact they’ve made this ridiculous video in the first places implies they’ve realised that the current design doesn’t work, they’ve realised they’ve made a mistake, and they may (fingers crossed!) decide not to repeat this travesty in future…

  9. Paul says:

    Who doesn’t like an omelette…

  10. Michael J says:

    After this abysmal video, Cheapside would be a good location for another Space4Cycling protest…

    • inge says:

      Do it like they did in the 1970’s in the Netherlands , in rush hour. Lot’s of bikes but not in an official demonstration with clearance from the police and/or the Mayor. No need to ask a permit to be on the roads and streets as cyclists! You’re traffic, ordinary traffic the same as motorists!

      • Jitensha Oni says:

        I’m with inge. After all the video does say “use the entire width if the road is narrow”. And of course we are repeatedly told so many of London Roads are medieval and narrow. But what about narrow lanes on supposedly wider roads? Where does one draw the line? How about “use the entire width if the lane is narrow”. Sounds like sensible cyclecraft to me. So come on you commuting MAMIL warriors of the road, for the sake of the more timid riders, you need to divert your route down Cheapside and use the full width of the road 😉

  11. It seems like the Cheapside road narrowing/pavement widening was partly in response to the building of the One New Change shopping centre, with the intention that wider pavements would increase pedestrian footfall, make it easier for people to cross the road, and hopefully increase shop revenues.

    Without knowing whether the shops in the area have seen an increase in takings it’s hard to know whether it’s been a success on that count, but what is clear is that despite being sold as improving conditions for cycling by reducing vehicle speeds, it’s actually made things much worse. What’s even more depressing is they could have reduced the width of the carriageway just by putting in a decent segregated lane on either side instead of asking people on bikes to act as rolling speed bumps. And now they’re having to produce videos explaining how to use the dangerous road they’ve created! I’m fed up of this ‘Medieval streets’ guff when it’s blatantly untrue.

    • Paul M says:

      It is not just “seems” – the developer of the 1 New Change shopping/office complex, Land Securities Plc, explicitly wanted the footways widened to improve the pedestrian experience and encourage more footfall in their expensive new development. Given that they are a powerful force in the City and that a significant chunk of the cash used to fund the streetscene changes came from Land Securities in the form of “section 106” money (which local authorities have an absolute entitlement to demand, but which they tend to allow the developer to dictate the spending priorities for) it is hardly surprising that the City acceded to their demands. They did much the same with regard to the slightly older development at New Street Square, where a large area of what had been public highway has been in effect handed over to the landlord (Land Securities Plc again) and put under their control – not so bad in the sense that they have fully pedestrianised it, but they have also made it impermeable for cyclists.

      I don’t know whether City planners were tittering or guffawing into their hankies when they offered up the “benefit to cyclists” crap written into the Planning committee papers, remarking in the same sentence that cyclists accounted for about 35% of peak-time traffic on the street, or whether they genuinely believed in what they are saying. To support the latter, you might cite their belief (hope?) that the anticipated consequence of the narrowing – cars and goods vehicles trapped behind buses constantly stopping to pick up or let down passengers, and so brought to barely walking pace – would motivate most non-bus traffic to stick to the distributor roads such as Cannon St/Queen Vic St to the south, and so stop using a local access road as a rat-run. Some hope!

      It also hasn’t helped that they have re-opened Gresham St to traffic entering from the west, so recreating a rat run which had been closed off. The bone tossed to cyclists as justification for the “benefit” this gave them was a weird stretch of on-pavement cycle path to give them a contraflow of sorts on the Little Britain gyratory.

      Perhaps what’s done is done, but I’m afraid it doesn’t augur well for the future. Apparently in the City’s forward plan there are proposals to “do a Cheapside” on Fleet Street. At a squeeze, you can get in four lanes in places, and certainly three lanes, one of which is a bus lane, most of the way. The bus lane, in common with all CoL bus lanes, is not available to taxis (except apparently to pick up or drop off, or maybe even that has to be done quickly to avoid detection). Certainly Fleet St is by no means the worst City street to cycle along, at the moment, but the Cheapside treatment would render it as bad as the Strand the other side of Aldwych.

  12. coshgirl says:

    It’s not just Cheapside either. Other councils are getting in on the pavement widening / road narrowing act too. Take Waltham Forest for example, both Lea Bridge Road and Leyton High Road are currently being made more ‘pedestrian friendly’ with no consideration for the many cyclists who use the route. There is now literally no room for large vehicles to overtake cyclists safely on Lea Bridge Road in both directions around Bakers Arms. It’s particularly galling that there isn’t even high footfall there either. Insane and a complete waste of money. How the same council can be thinking of ‘going Dutch’ is beyond me.

    • Do the planners who propose these schemes seriously think that by not allowing enough space to overtake safely that drivers will stop trying to overtake? Or are they okay with the idea of drivers trying to bully their way past?

  13. coshgirl says:

    I have absolutely no idea what planners are thinking when they design these schemes tbh. If there is room to widen a pavement, there is room for a segregated cycle track in my opinion, but these opportunities are being missed again and again in such schemes.

  14. Larry says:

    How about they carve a separated bike lane into that absurdly wide pavement?

  15. congokid says:

    Watched with the sound off, it looks like a way for male drivers to get a date (and also get another cyclist off the road and into a car). The platitudes at the end read like so much advice given freely – it’s usually freely ignored by the intended recipients.

  16. pm says:

    Though I agree with every word of the criticism everyone is making of the message (and the road-planning actions) behind this video, I have to shamefacedly admit that I think the amimated bit is technically very well done. Just a huge shame that technical skill and story-tellingimagination wasn’t put to a better use.

    However, seeing Ms Egg get sideswiped just bought to mind too many tragic instances of real cyclists being killed or injured like that – which actually made it a bit upsetting. Its not so easy to fix in real life (and in my experience, as already said, motorists are more likely to roar off at high speed – or even to get out and berate the injured party, or attempt to strangle them, as one London taxi driver once did). And its interesting the choices they made about gender (lipstick and nice wicker basket and all!) – do they see women cyclists as less skilled? Or is it that they make more sympathetic ‘victims’?

    Also, on the general topic of ‘widened pavements’ – widen the pavements by all means, but then ban motorised traffic from what’s left of the roadway!

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