Pedestrians and the Superhighways

The Cyclists in the City blog has cast its eye over the City of London’s latest response to the Superhighway proposals [pdf], interpreting it as suggesting that the City are supporting their proposals, and actually demanding even more radical change.

I’d really like to be that charitable – after all, the City are demanding better pedestrian crossings, more pedestrian space, and better waiting times, as outcomes from this scheme. However, it’s quite hard to take these demands at face value when their response to the current proposals is so strangely negative. I can’t make sense of it. It seems there is some politics going on being the scenes, but the City’s interpretation of what is currently on the table is so oddly skewed it bears examination.

For a start, the City explicitly state that the proposals will make the roads in question worse for pedestrians.

The overall impact of the current proposals on pedestrians, local access and the environment are not in keeping with the Mayor of London‟s Vision to “create better places for everyone”.

Apparently, the current proposals have such an impact on pedestrians, they can’t be said to create a ‘better place’ for them. Elsewhere –

Officers believe that TfL’s proposals will have a significant adverse impact on the City. In particular to pedestrians, traffic flow, access and network resilience. It also fails to sufficiently address other challenges such as casualty reduction, air quality and the built environment.

‘Significant adverse impact’, in particular on pedestrians. Justified? Here are the new crossings that will be provided, listed by the  City in a table, which I’ve annotated. Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 19.24.45 Of the 14 listed, 12 are an (often substantial) improvement. The two that are worse are negligibly worse – the ‘2-stage’ crossing listed is a crossing of the road, then a crossing of the cycle track. This also applies to other ‘2-stage’ crossings listed above – they are not conventional two stage crossings – they are a crossing of the road in one go, followed by another (signalised) crossing of the cycle track, much better than crossing two large carriageways in two stages.

Three of the junctions mentioned currently have no pedestrian signals on one , two, or all of their arms.

Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 19.35.29

The Queen Street Place crossing. Currently no signals for pedestrians. A safe, proper crossing will be delivered here, with the Superhighway.

Likewise, the east and west side of Ludgate Circus have no pedestrian signals. You have to guess when it’s safe to cross. Proper crossings will come with the Superhighways.

No signals for pedestrians at all on all four arms of the Farringdon Road/Charterhouse St junction. Crossings coming on all 4 arms, single stage on 3.

No signals for pedestrians at all on all four arms of the Farringdon Road/Charterhouse St junction. Crossings coming on all 4 arms, single stage on 3 of them.

The Tower Hill/Minories junction would be a huge improvement, as you can see below.

Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 20.21.55

Left – existing THREE STAGE crossing. Right – proposed, direct crossing

The City have this to say –

Whilst most of these new crossings are welcomed and long overdue, a number of them are proposed to be the “stagger” type crossings. These are crossings where pedestrian will need to cross in two attempts (two stages) and are therefore less than ideal.

Given that these “stagger” crossings are being put in place where there are currently no signals at all for pedestrians, this strikes me as being a little uncharitable. But if the City – in good faith – are calling for more direct crossings as part of these proposals, then that is very welcome. There is no reason at all why direct crossings can’t work with segregated cycle tracks – in reality, a number of these crossings remain two-stage to preserve motor traffic capacity, not for anything specifically related to cycling.

It’s also worth pointing out that – as mentioned above – there are two very different kinds of ‘stagger’ crossings. There are the current, horrible ones on the Embankment, which leave you stranded on a narrow island in four lanes of thunderous motor traffic.

Nearly every single crossing on the Embankment is like this.

Nearly every single crossing on the Embankment is like this.

Then there are the ‘stagger’ crossings that will replace every single one of these unpleasant crossings, which are of this form –

A direct crossing of the road, followed by a crossing of the cycle track.

A direct crossing of the road, followed by a crossing of the cycle track.

These are very different beasts, and the latter has to be acknowledged as a massive improvement, even if it remains a ‘two stage’ crossing.

So the crossings – while plainly not ideal – are almost in every case a large improvement on what is currently in place. The City are right to call for more – and one should welcome the chance to make things even better for pedestrians. But do the current proposals really justify comments about ‘significant adverse impacts’ on pedestrians? I’m not seeing it. Even the space gains for pedestrians (several thousand square metres) are accepted slightly churlishly by the City –

Although the proposals provide more pedestrian space, they are not necessarily at the locations where they are most needed such as the large islands north of Ludgate Circus or the islands forming the cycle lane segregation. In fact, the proposal looks to reduce footway space, particularly outside areas where high pedestrian flows exist such as at the Tower of London, Trinity Square Gardens, Queen Street and Ludgate Circus.

Footway space is, in truth, being marginally trimmed at these locations. Ludgate Circus is both gaining and losing some footway space –

'Salmon' colour is new space; red outline, the old kerblines

‘Salmon’ colour is new space; purple outline, the old kerblines

… while the losses at Trinity Square and Queen Street are really quite marginal, especially in the context of the public space behind the carriageway in both these locations. Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 21.28.56 Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 21.30.06 To focus on these minor changes, as against the major gains elsewhere, again seems churlish. This is without even touching upon the large overall benefit to pedestrians from the way these schemes move motor traffic further away from footways – making for quieter, more comfortable and attractive experience – and the benefits from the banned turns for motor traffic, making it substantially easier to cross many of the minor side roads covered in these schemes. None of this mentioned by the City, at all.

The remaining pedestrian-specific issue the City raises are the longer waiting times at some of the pedestrian crossings, particularly at Ludgate Circus, where waits could be up to 24 seconds longer. But, as with ‘staggered’ crossings, this issue of timings is entirely related to maintaining motor traffic capacity. There is no incompatibility between cycling infrastructure and short waits to cross the road – the problem is the motor traffic.

The City’s position here is – rightly – that crossing times have to be shorter, but something has to give, and that ‘something’ should be motor traffic, not safe and attractive cycling conditions. Unfortunately it’s not clear where the City stand on this issue, particularly as they are making noises about delay to motor traffic elsewhere in their response, and also because of their strange comments about the Superhighway schemes being ‘biased’ towards cycling.

[The Superhighways] will run mostly on TfL roads, be direct and largely segregated. At junctions, conflicts between motor vehicles and cyclists will be removed. In order to achieve these design objectives, the reallocation of road space, amended signal times and restricted access is proposed. The City considers that the proposals are too heavily biased towards cyclists with insufficient consideration given to the needs of other users.

Funnily enough, ‘removing conflicts’ at junctions, and physically separating between them, is exactly what TfL should be doing on these busy roads – these designs, despite the ‘bikelash’ hype, are really the bare minimum.

So, from this passage, it seems the City believe that the mere act of designing properly is enough to render these proposals ‘too heavily biased towards cyclists’. (To look at this another way, how might the proposals becomes less ‘biased’? Maintaining conflicts at lethal junctions like Ludgate Circus, or Blackfriars? Continuing to mix people cycling with HGVs and coaches on Lower Thames Street, rather than separating them?) My concern, from this kind of comment about ‘bias’, and from comments elsewhere that

the segregation design would significantly compromise network resilience

is that the City want to iron out these niggles, in some areas, over the quality of the pedestrian experience by watering down the quality of the Superhighway proposals, and even eroding them completely, rather than taking more time, and space, away from motor traffic. I hope that’s not the case.

This entry was posted in City of London, London, Superhighways, Transport for London, Walking. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Pedestrians and the Superhighways

  1. ORiordan says:

    I wonder how much of the delays to motor traffic are as a result of the redesign of pedestrian crossings therefore not directly related to the cycle lanes at all. In other words, how different would the modelling have been if the scheme had just been a “pedestrian improvement program”?

    I suppose there may be some delays through reduction of road capacity by introducing a cycle lane, but how does that compare with the delay because vehicles are waiting at a longer 1 stage crossing compared to a shorter 2 stage? I don’t know if it is possible to unpick this from the modelling.

    I can’t help but think that TfL have missed a trick by leading with the cycling aspect of the scheme and almost downplaying the major advantages there appear to be for pedestrians (notwithstanding there may be genuine debate about the design of some specific locations)

  2. Surely by adding safe and attractive cycleways that may encourage some of those people who currently drive or use public transport to cycle ADDS network resilience by providing a viable alternative to these already strained alternative networks?

    • ORiordan says:

      I think the City may be thinking of the scenario where there may be a collision, breakdown or roadworks blocking some lanes so having more lanes means vehicle traffic can still get through so it is really a complaint about the reduction in number of lanes.

      The flip side of course is if there is a tube strike or bus strike and vehicle traffic on the roads is horrendous and at a virtual standstill, bikes will always get through.

  3. KristianCyc says:

    They give the game away here
    “The City considers that the proposals are too heavily biased towards CYCLISTS”

    If they saw cycling as a mode of transport, they should be arguing its “too heavily biased towards CYCLING”. No, this is biased towards a minority group, a sub-culture, this is biased towards CYCLISTS, they aren’t like us, we are people, we travel by car, by train, by foot, but they are the other ones, the outgroup, the different people. Schemes that benefit THEM don’t benefit US. Schemes should benefit the majority and WE are the majority but THEY are only a small group. There is can be no mixing. It is us and them.

    • My thoughts exactly! I hate this word “cyclist”, to most people it’s equivalent to “train spotter” or “avid rambler”. Spending millions on a minority hobby is never going to sound good.

      Spending money on better facilities for getting around by “cycling” however, is much easier to sell. Suddenly we’re talking about transport policy, not MAMILs.

      Similarly, I think the word “pedestrians” is used in a similar ‘othering’ way. The way the City of London Corporation suddenly care about “pedestrians” has a condescending tone, with the implication that they’re some poor, weak sub-species for which we must show pity.

      The truth is that there’s no such thing as a “pedestrian” – we all walk from one place to another, but few people would identify with that label or define themselves by that mode of transport.

      I’m not having a go at Mark here, but reading this article with that in mind, I reckon all instances of the word “pedestrians” could be replaced with “walking” or even removed altogether, even in the title.

  4. Excellent work on these proposals, Mark. I hope the right people are reading.

    • Have had pretty much that exact situation on CS7 this week by Clapham Common, a lane is out and the turn into Rookery Road is closed (a welcome change as drivers do *love* trying to kill me there with a right hook) so it’s only been the cyclists making reasonable progress 😀

  5. Paul M says:

    “The City” doesn’t really represent the City. You can see that in the responses from numerous City firms, large and small, including RBS, employer of over 12,000 souls in the City, Deloitte, over 7,000 souls, Allen & Overy, 2,500 souls etc etc, which have supported the proposals.

    The Corporation of London comprises largely retired or semi-retired professional types, a few from the major firms but mainly from smaller firms, who have all been elected unopposed by a very small electorate, of a few thousand residents and a few thousand principals of the businesses with street addresses in the Square Mile – I am one of them – who typically turn out to vote in small numbers. They are in reality a local council with illusions of grandeur about representing the City to the nation and the world. (In reality the City gets far more effective representation from Boris Jonson and from national government.) They manage the bins, and a few other things besides.

    While the big city firms – and small city firms, for that matter – have significant cohorts of senior executives , and overall might have, in many cases, near to or exceeding 10% overall who bike to work, the councilmen, the members of the Corporation Of London, have vanishingly few cyclists among them. (A crueller person than I might observe that they are all either too old or too fat to ride a bike). There are some exceptions – I recall once meeting Mark Boleat around the time he was planning to ride the BHF London-Brighton rally – but primarily as a leisure activity. In my own ward Jeremy Simons rides a beautiful Pashley Guv’nor and Catherine McGuinness has a Brompton to ride around town, but by and large Councillors who use bikes for transport are few, and have minimal influence in the key committees.

    The pre-occupations of councillors, understandably, are around pedestrians and motorists. This is because they have to consider pedestrians, because only 4% of City workers arrive by car or taxi and the remainder inevitably have to make their final journey stage on foot, and get around the city at lunchtime etc on foot. Councillors themselves will make most of their trips in the City as pedestrians.

    Councillors however also have a love affair with taxis, as their principal mode of transport and no doubt often paid for on expenses. I dare say some also drive, and probably have grace & favour parking spaces at Guildhall. Anyway, I expect that they don’t want their cab rides delayed, even if the primary cause of delay is probably the cabs themselves – an estimated 20% of all daytime traffic in the City is unhired Hackney Carriages cruising for fares.

    So with the footsoldiers on one side and the mechanised division on the other, “The City” doesn’t care about cyclists, doesn’t like cyclists, and doesn’t want them getting in their way. Simple as that.

    The other City, the firms cited above among others, have a far more functional view of the issue. They care about what is good for business. That means lots of things, not just the welfare and health of their staff as cycle commuters and/or pedestrians from the nearest tube station. If other business considerations outweighed the staff angle, they would not have come out in support.

    • Paul Gannon says:

      A couple of other things about ‘the City of London’ – properly it is the ‘Corporation of London’ & private corporation (with governmental functions and powers vested in it) it is, hoarding and controlling considerable public funds, appropriated as its own ‘private’ funds. The Bridge Funds and related funds were donated by citizens for the upkeep of London’s then major infrastructure needs – bridges. Now they are massive investments which the Corporation controls for its own benefit. Also, historically the Corporation has frequently opposed London getting its own local government (fearing it would weaken their power).
      Bascially it is an evil, late-medieval/early-modern hangover that should never be allowed to continue in a constitutional democracy and the Bridge Funds etc should be used for what they were given for – improving and maintaining London’s transport infrastructure.
      Also, the Corporation has successfully resisted allowing a sensible link up of cycle routes on Hampstead Heath for 20 + years (it was given the Heath by the chillingly-named London Residuary Body following the Tory abolition of the GLC – the present cycle routes are pre-Corporationand they would have loved to get rid of them – which I recall they did try to do on the very wide path at the bottom of Parliament Hill some years ago).
      The Corporation’s sudden discovery of ‘concern’ for pedestrians is a front; it is appealing to pedestrians as a way of opposing the cycle routes as ‘pedestrians are good’ and ‘cyclists are bad’ in present day press ideology.

  6. Simon Still says:

    I tried commenting earlier but seemingly failed and have now seen point mad on Twitter.

    Pedestrians and cycles can safely mix without needing signalised crossings in most cases (perhaps an exception where Ped volumes are very high – outside stations perhaps?). Cycle traffic is likely to have natural breaks due to signals further back to allow crossing

  7. Koen says:

    I really don’t understand why people walking can’t cross straight, in one go, but have to shuffle sideways like in PacMan. Are British traffic planners afraid they will run blindly into all that traffic?

    • Adam says:

      If the whole crossing changes to green/red man at the same time, then it will go straight across the road. However, if the 2 halves of the crossing go green/red at separate times, then they will be staggered to make it absolutely clear that it is 2 separate crossings. When I was in Paris, never having used a non-staggered crossing, I stepped out into the road when the green man came on, but soon realised that my half of the crossing was still red. (The traffic was fairly light, so there wasn’t any heavy traffic to make it obvious.) The stagger eliminates this problem, because people can’t look at the wrong pedestrian light.

  8. monchberter says:

    Part of me speculates there’s a long game being played here and the City and Canary Wharf have their eye on that.

    A successfully delivered Superhighway will lead to demand for more schemes and the City and other boroughs having their own idiosyncratic cycle infrastructure rulebooks torn up and rewritten against prioritising the heavy use of motor vehicles in big cities.

    The petty objections are last ditch attempts to derail obvious progress

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