Quietways are meaningless if they don’t deal with difficult junctions

Westminster Council recently announced plans for improvements to Cambridge Circus, at the heart of the West End. Unfortunately these proposals – which do amount to some benefits for people walking in the area – make cycling through this already hostile junction even worse.

The plans primarily involve the addition of a diagonal Oxford Circus-style crossing, across the middle of the junction. Presumably this will run at the same time as the four crossings on the four arms of the junction.

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 18.53.32

However, they also involve the complete closure of the junction with Moor Street, just to the north of the main junction, which at present is a very convenient (and safe) exit point in and out of Soho. It’s currently cycle-only, on exit.

The cycle-only exit and entrance of Moor Street, looking towards Cambridge Circus

The cycle-only exit of Moor Street, looking towards Cambridge Circus

This is all the more strange given that Westminster are marking the route of Quietway 19 on these plans. 

Red markings added by me.

Red markings added by me. The proposed route of the Quietway is the red arrow; the Moor Street closure in the red rectangle

Westminster are proposing that the Quietway should take the route indicated in red, before going straight across Cambridge Circus, rather than using the logical cut-through of Moor Street, which will be entirely closed. In fact the diagonal markings represent bike stands, presumably a (futile) attempt to stop people cycling across this area. Rather than closing this road completely, it could of course be turned into an appropriately designed cycle-only cut through, with little detriment to the public space. It’s an easy road to cross, even now.

The current Moor Street crossing. I'm standing in the road to take this picture.

The current Moor Street crossing. I’m standing in the road to take this picture.

The road could be narrowed down to a cycle-only route, with a raised table, and even an informal zebra, to give pedestrians priority.

A complete closure, however, would mean people will have to cycle some distance up Charing Cross Road, which is hardly an attractive prospect.

Looking north up Charing Cross Road. You will have to cycle in this, on the 'Quietway'.

Looking north up Charing Cross Road. You will have to cycle in this, on the ‘Quietway’.

Indeed, I cannot see this Quietway route being the least bit attractive for anyone, given that no substantive changes are proposed to the actual junction at Cambridge Circus. Coming from the south, the Quietway (again, indicated by the blue marking) involves crossing from Litchfield Street, onto Charing Cross Road.

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 19.04.52

Here you are simply dumped into two lanes of motor traffic. There is an ASL there, but good luck reaching it (and I would probably advise you not even attempting to do so).

Charing Cross Road, from Litchfield Street. Again, 'Quietway' users will have to cycle out into this traffic, and sit in it, to get through Cambridge Circus.

Charing Cross Road, from Litchfield Street. Again, ‘Quietway’ users will have to cycle out into this traffic, and sit in it, to get through Cambridge Circus.

This is a really horrible junction, a place I can’t imagine the target market of Quietways – alleged novice/nervous cyclists – feeling the least bit comfortable cycling through. Even hardened users like me – used to cycling on these kinds of roads – find it unpleasant and intimidating. Yet the Quietway simply gives up here. It makes the Mayor’s Vision for Cycling description of Quietways sound rather hollow –

a network of direct back-street Quietways, with segregation and junction improvements over the hard parts [my emphasis]

And

Where directness demands the Quietway briefly join a main road, full segregation and direct crossing points will be provided, wherever possible, on that stretch[my emphasis]

Yet instead of ‘segregation and junction improvements over the hard parts’, Westminster don’t appear to be bothering to do anything at all here, simply dumping people cycling into the existing hostile junction, and indeed making their journeys more inconvenient and dangerous than even the current situation, by removing the Moor Street cycle-only route.

What hope is there for the Quietways programme if significant barriers on their routes – junctions like Cambridge Circus – are not being dealt with?

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11 Responses to Quietways are meaningless if they don’t deal with difficult junctions

  1. MysteryMachine says:

    You can always rely on Westminster Council to pick the worst possible option for people on bicycles. We really need them to be held responsible (legally and financially) for the injuries and deaths caused by their disgraceful attitude to infrastructure and people’s safety while using it.

  2. Koen says:

    Probably the only effective solution.

  3. Paul says:

    Quietways need TfL approval for funding. If they don’t meet the specification , as in this case, they shouldn’t be funded. Caroline Pidgeon, Chair of the GLA Transport Committee has taken on KIngston for trying to water down its Mini-Holland scheme.

  4. Andrea says:

    I think it is unhelpful to call this part of the Quietways Programme. Rather it is part of the Central London Cycling Grid, which should be the jewel of the Mayor’s Vision and it is instead butchered by Westminster Council, Camden Council and the City, exactly by using the bullshit that the grid is made of quietways.

    Please read my article here:

    http://www.visionzerolondon.org/2015/01/10000-people-who-rode-for-going-dutch.html

    I have written several times to the leadership of the LCC and they are (very slowly) starting to understand.

  5. paulc says:

    looks to me like they’re deliberately setting it up to fail so they can hold their hands up and blame us cyclists for not using what they’ve provided at great expense, meanwhile they’ve raided the cycle budget to put in some stuff that only makes sense for pedestrians and motorists… but slapped some cycle friendly guff on the package…

    • Adanac says:

      That’s what it looks like to me too. They really don’t want to have anything to do with this at all, or they’re political opponents so feel they have to oppose anything the other guys are proposing.
      But then, maybe they are well meaning but unknowledgeable about what works and what doesn’t.
      But I doubt it. This looks too set up.

  6. Har Davdis says:

    Quietways, cycle highways etc. Lots of hot air and not action. Why not see what works in Denmark and The Netherlands and adapt that works over there for use in the UK? If you get on your bike, you do so from home, school or work-place, so you don’t want to go to one of those sections of the city that cater to cyclists.

    • Paul says:

      Westminster is some people’s workplace and others need to go through it to reach workplace/ place they want to visit etc. A Central London Cycle Grid is definitely needed
      but needs proper planning rather than being at the mercy of borough intransigence.

  7. Geoff says:

    argh i cycle regularly from holborn to soho and use Moor Street every time, it’s easily the preferable route to take. That change is going to screw that right up.

  8. MysteryMachine says:

    Consultation now open. Westminster Concil hasn’t set up an online form as TfL would, but have produced a leaflet which can be viewed here:

    http://westminstertransportationservices.co.uk/pdfs/Cambridge-Circus-Consultation-Leaflet.pdf

    Responses need to be in by 15 May. The ‘How can you help?’ section on the first page has email contacts for submitting comments.

  9. I’m glad that this quietways nonsense is being exposed. My (Middleton) Road in Hackney has/is being labeled a quiet way. Obviously, it’s not like Cambridge Circus but it is a complete rat run – Labeling a road quiet does not make it so – & even more worrying, does totally mislead cyclists & parents of new cyclists. Making it a proper quietway & safe for cyclists takes effort and planning and changing the priority on the route to cyclists and pedestrians – not this cheapskate electoral rubbish.

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