My response to Hackney’s Draft Cycling Plan, 2014-24

Hackney’s Cycling Plan has the (admirable) stated aim –

To make Hackney’s roads the most attractive and safest roads for cycling in the UK, and a place where it is second nature for everyone, no matter what their age, background or ethnicity.

However, for a borough that prides itself on its levels of cycling, the Plan’s target of a 15% modal share for cycling by 2024 is unambitious.

Even more unambitious is a target of just 5% cycling share for trips made by children to school, by the same year (and not even for all trips children make). This compares very poorly with Dutch levels of child cycling, which are above 40% for the entire country, as a percentage of all trips. This is a target a genuinely ambitious cycling borough should be aspiring to. Correspondingly, Hackney should look and learn from the best of Dutch practice.

Hackney already does many things very well, better than nearly every London borough. In particular it has made many residential streets, and roads away from the main road network, safe, comfortable and attractive for cycling, by filtering out motor traffic (or removing it completely).

However, the strategy in this Plan for making cycling an attractive prospect on the borough’s main roads remains vague – talking only of creating ‘clear space’, which is ambiguous.

The Council will look to pursue a policy of ‘clear space for cyclists’ when designing public realm and traffic schemes on busy routes or where there is high traffic flows.

This is despite the Plan itself acknowledging several problems on Hackney’s main roads. For instance, the problems caused by a lack of clear routes on congested roads –

Where there is regular congestion and queuing vehicles there will be limited room for cyclists to advance and as a result cyclists will often squeeze between vehicles or even undertake on the left hand side despite the known dangers

The problems caused by having to negotiate around the outside of parked vehicles –

Parking and unloading arrangements at the kerbside on these busier roads can also represent a danger to cyclists when moving around them especially when vehicles try to overtake and cyclists are also at risk from being hit by vehicle doors being opened in their path

The problem of where actual, serious collisions are occurring –

the majority of serious [cycling] accidents occur on our busier roads with high traffic flows and often multiple bus routes

And perhaps most importantly of all, the problem of subjective safety –

Chapter 5 established that fear of injury and the perception of cycling as a dangerous activity is a primary reason why many residents do not currently cycle

All of these problems clearly need to be addressed, if Hackney is to get anywhere near its own targets, let alone start progressing towards the considerably higher levels of cycling achieved in cities in the Netherlands and Denmark. Not least because – as the Plan itself acknowledges –

It is inevitable that cyclists will continue to use our busy high streets and strategic roads that carry high volumes of vehicular traffic because often they are the most direct and quickest routes.

There are – tentative – noises about starting to do things properly on main roads, rather than relying on a strategy of mixing people cycling in with high volumes of motor traffic.

the borough is unsure as to how [full/light segregation] will impact on the borough’s highway network (both TfL‐controlled and otherwise) but will work with the Mayor and TfL to assess the appropriateness or otherwise of this approach on a case‐by‐case basis.

Not ruling it out, but hardly a ringing endorsement. And later –

The Council is open and willing to examine proposals for segregated and semi‐ segregated cycle lanes on principal roads but it will be considered on a case‐by‐case basis ‐ taking into account concerns about: high collision rates at intersecting junctions where segregated lanes end; visual impact on the streetscape; interaction between bus users and cyclists at bus stops; and other competing demands for road space on Hackney’s busiest routes.

There are plainly many roads in Hackney that could happily accommodate cycling infrastructure, with physical buffering from motor traffic, and separated from pedestrians. This space could either come from footways that are sufficiently wide that reduction in width would not affect pedestrian comfort –

Screen Shot 2014-11-07 at 15.56.11

Or from private motor traffic lanes on the carriageway –

Screen Shot 2014-11-07 at 15.59.38Or simply from better use of the existing space on the carriageway.

Screen Shot 2014-11-07 at 16.01.32Hard choices will have to be made in some locations about which modes of transport – and which uses of public space – get prioritised, but that’s no reason to ignore those places where comfortable cycling conditions, separated from motor traffic, could be provided with little difficulty.

Of course, in other locations, the borough will have to make those choices; about how many lanes of private motor traffic to keep; about whether bus lanes should be a higher priority than cycling infrastructure; and about whether simply returning gyratories to two-way running represents the best available way of making cycling an attractive and viable mode of transport – retaining one-way flow for motor traffic could, for instance, allow the creation of separated two-way flow for cycling.

In short, Hackney needs to decide how much cycling it wants to have – whether it wants a small amount of growth on top of what it already has, or whether it wants to reap the benefits of genuine mass cycling. If it wants the latter, this Plan needs to reflect a serious commitment to prioritising the comfort, safety and convenience of cycling in the borough, especially on main roads, rather than the uncertain-sounding noises it currently contains.

The consultation closes today – see also Hackney Cyclist’s excellent (and much more detailed) analysis

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One Response to My response to Hackney’s Draft Cycling Plan, 2014-24

  1. Danny Yee says:

    Pretty much all of this applies to Oxford, too. Good work has been done in Oxford reducing traffic speeds and volumes on back roads, adding some bicycle contra-flow lanes (more are planned), and so forth. But the major routes remain too hostile – too much traffic, often too fast as well – for most potential cyclists, since the only provision for them there consists of narrow on-road cycle lanes, broken up by parking and often in door zones.

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