Rachel Aldred blogged last week about Transport for London’s proposals for Broad Lane in Tottenham, pointing out that this wide three lane road is going to be reduced in capacity to just a single lane in each direction – but without any separation for cycling from motor traffic included in the proposals. I headed up there on Thursday to take a look around.
Anyone who thinks London is a ‘cycling city’ will quickly have their illusions shattered as soon as they venture into areas like this in Zone 3. Just twenty minutes or so from Bloomsbury – where there are at least a relatively high number of people riding bikes – you arrive at Seven Sisters, where anyone cycling is vastly outnumbered by huge numbers of people travelling in private cars.
The proposals for Broad Lane are just one part of a large TfL scheme to restore what was a big system of one-way roads – the A10 High Road, Monument Way and Broad Lane – to two-way running for all traffic.
The A10 here has already been returned from one-way flow northbound (with a contraflow south-bound bus lane) into a two-way road for motor traffic. But it’s quite obvious that cycling has been completely ignored in the ‘improvements’ that are already in place, despite a vast acreage of space available.
The proposals for the A10 did include a two-way cycle track, albeit one that is marooned on the inside of the pavement, that gives up at every single junction, and reverts to messy shared use at each signalised crossing.
However I saw no sign of any cycle tracks here, despite this section of the works being largely complete.
There is a bus lane, but this is not an enjoyable place to ride a bike, particularly as the buses are travelling as fast as everyone else – 30mph – and will squeeze past you in the bus lanes. And the junctions – where the bus lanes disappear – are terribly designed, as far as cycling as concerned.
This is what we have come to expect from Transport for London – huge sums of money being spent on new schemes, without any serious thought for anyone who might choose to ride a bicycle. What is deeply worrying, however, is that there doesn’t seem to be any sign of this great big supertanker even beginning to alter course. The proposals for the Broad Lane section of this gyratory are an example of the TfL machine just ploughing on as before, with no thought for cycling as a mode of transport, despite a huge, huge opportunity to do something significant on this section of road.
The whole of Broad Lane is, at present, a three lane one way system. It’s awful. The shops and dwellings along it are blighted by roaring motor traffic.
As already alluded to, TfL will be reducing this three lane motorway to just a single lane in each direction, and introducing a 20mph limit. The pavements will be wider, there will be speed humps installed to slow traffic, and there will be new zebra crossings. These are undeniable and substantial improvements for people walking in the area. But as far as cycling is concerned, this scheme is yet another gigantic missed opportunity.
With the removal of a vehicle lane, there is clear scope to reallocate the space that will be gained to a protected cycle track in each direction. This is especially true on the eastern section of Broad Lane, where there currently exists a (deeply substandard) two-way cycle track, alongside the pavements and the three carriageway lanes.
The original proposals for this scheme (now lost in the internet, but retrieved thanks to a commenter on Rachel’s blog) actually retained this cycle track, alongside the reduced number of lanes for motor vehicles.
But at some stage in the consultation process, someone at TfL has evidently decided that attempting to separate cycling from motor traffic on Broad Lane is no longer necessary, and that 20mph limits will suffice. Despite the consultation proposing that the changes will ‘make the area more accessible for those walking or cycling’, this cycle track is being removed, and there will be no dedicated space for cycling on what will undoubtedly remain a very busy road.
So despite the very poor quality of the existing cycle track, I think it is quite clear that these changes will actually diminish the attractiveness and accessibility of the eastern section of Broad Lane, for anyone riding a bike.
I counted roughly 30 vehicles a minute travelling along the road when I visited during the middle of the day (I took a short video, which you can see here), which amounts to around 1,800 vehicles an hour, at off-peak (and accords reasonably with the daily flow of 37,000 vehicles measured along here by the DfT). This volume may be reduced slightly by the changes to two-way running, but certainly not to a level where expecting anyone cycling to share the carriageway would be appropriate or reasonable.
There are industrial estates and retail parks along Broad Lane itself, which will inevitably mean that HGVs will continue to use it in significant numbers, along with buses and plenty of private motor traffic. I spotted several HGVs emerging from side roads as I visited the area.
The composition and volume of traffic travelling along Broad Lane is not likely to change significantly, and yet a scheme that purports to improve conditions for cycling is proposing to push people who currently cycle on a track, away from heavy traffic, into precisely the same space. It’s staggering.
The cycle track – as you can see from the picture above – is already being dug up and replaced with a wide pavement.
This won’t even be a shared use pavement – you will be expected to cycle on the road, with the lorries.
What’s actually quite upsetting is that demand for cycling is already visible at the margins here, despite the atrocious conditions.
These two schoolboys were heading north with their two friends (I failed to photograph both pairs riding like this). Ordinarily they would have been on the cycle track, but as that is being dug up and removed, they were using the coned-off section of the road. In a few weeks’ time they will face the choice of cycling on a pavement, or riding with the lorries.
In fact all the cycling I saw on Broad Lane was on the pavement.
Instinctively some might brand this kind of behaviour ‘anti-social’, but the tragedy is that if these people had a safe and attractive place to ride their bikes, they would use it. They wouldn’t choose to use pavements where they have to share with pedestrians.
Unfortunately I suspect the outcome of the changes on Broad Lane will be to continue to push people who want to ride into conflict with pedestrians. Space is being taken away from motor traffic, but it is not being used productively or sensibly.
Will people ride in the volume of motor traffic shown in these pictures? Or will they continue to ride (illegally) on the wide new pavements? I don’t think it’s difficult to discern the answer.
Demand for cycling in London will continue to be suppressed by schemes like this. Roads that carry tens of thousands of vehicles a day will not suddenly become attractive to ordinary people – let alone the children who attend the primary and secondary schools on and around Broad Lane – merely with the addition of a 20mph speed limit and some speed humps. Physical separation is needed, and yet on a road where that space is being taken away from motor vehicles, it is not being sensibly reallocated. The evidence of this scheme – and others like it – suggests that cycling remains an invisible mode of transport as far as TfL is concerned. When will this change?
The consultation runs until 18th October – have your say here