Bus stop bypasses – there is no alternative

It seems that Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust are still pushing their extraordinary petition to block safe cycling infrastructure design on Westminster Bridge, apparently on ‘safety grounds’.

Concern is obviously fine, but the problem here is that GSTT are arguing against bus stop bypasses – even going so far as to threaten legal action – while conspicuously failing to suggest any reasonable alternative design to the one being proposed by Transport for London. And there’s a very good reason for this.

There isn’t any reasonable alternative.

If you don’t build bus stop bypasses – putting the bus stop on an island, with cycling routed between that island and the footway – you are left with two options.

The first is what I would call ‘business as usual’; mixing people cycling with buses and heavy traffic on the road.

Cycling on the road, at the location where cycling infrastructure is proposed on Westminster Bridge

Cycling on the road, at the location where cycling infrastructure is proposed on Westminster Bridge

This is far from acceptable even for existing users, let alone for the non-cycling demographic that we should be building cycling infrastructure for – children, the elderly, and so on, the kind of people you rarely see cycling in London, because the road conditions, and because of the lack of cycling infrastructure like that being proposed by Transport for London on Westminster Bridge. The people who want to cycle, but can’t, because of conditions like those shown in the photograph above, and who do when infrastructure is provided.

Just for clarity, three people have been killed or seriously injured cycling on this eastern section of the bridge since 2006, including a woman in her fifties, who was killed in January 2006.

Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 11.56.59

The other alternative, if we don’t build bus stop bypasses, is simply mixing cycling with walking on the footway. As it happens, this is currently the existing situation on the footway outside Guy’s and St Thomas’.

A hire bike user, cycling entirely legally on the footway outside Guy's and St Thomas'

A hire bike user, cycling entirely legally on the footway outside Guy’s and St Thomas’

I don’t think this is acceptable at all; it’s not acceptable for people with visual impairment, or indeed for anyone walking or cycling along here. It’s not good enough. People walking and cycling should be separated from each other, on the grounds of both safety and convenience.

And that’s it. Those are the only two alternatives, if you refuse to build bus stop bypasses. You either expose people cycling to unacceptable levels of danger on the carriageway (while simultaneously limiting cycling as a transport option to the existing narrow demographic willing to cycle in hostile conditions), or you mix them with pedestrians on the footway. There is no magic solution that is waiting to be discovered.

This is why Guy’s and St Thomas’ posturing on this issue is deeply silly. There is no alternative. So instead of trying to block bus stop bypasses altogether, they need to work constructively with Transport for London on ensuring that the design of the bypasses is as safe for all potential users as is possible.

Please do also read Joe Dunkley’s piece on this issue, and sign the petition

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22 Responses to Bus stop bypasses – there is no alternative

  1. Clive Durdle says:

    I think a solution is to bring together a set of techniques. Bus stops should be next to pedestrian crossings so that all traffic is controlled at a bus stop, which could then be next to a junction. When all traffic is stopped , including cyclists, pedestrians can then board and leave buses. Use Oxford Circus type model allowing free pedn movement in many directions, all level walkways, no dropped kerbs. Needs experimenting! Idea is to allow all possible pedestrian movements freely in an area, not only at bus stop. Buses might control traffic sequencing.

    • meltdblog says:

      Its possible to have the bus hold up all other transport modes to allow pedestrians to get on/off, the Australian road rules have a specific example for trams where all traffic (including bicycles) must wait behind a stopped tram.

  2. Bmblbzzz says:

    A floating bus stop is a compromise, far from perfect for both cyclists and pedestrians. Good for bus drivers though! Pavement cycling is worse for all while carriageway cycling is good for pedestrians and for those cyclists who have the speed, nerves etc. The best solution is probably yet to be thought up (maybe trying Clive Durdle’s suggestion above?) but the most appropriate from what we have will surely vary from place to place.

  3. If anyone should be suing, it’s the cyclists who have been robbed of hundreds of millions of pounds and their lives and safety by road authorities who KNOW because you and many others have told them how to build a safe road and them KNOWING that they are capable of building them.

  4. Jitensha Oni says:

    Bypasses outside hospitals? G&StT’s petition wants TfL to provide an example. How about here outside the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel on CS2?

    Rider gives way where necessary, as they usually do in such circumstances. Do you think they would agree to retract their objections if this was shown to cause no problems after a set period of operation? Me neither.

    Anyway, further afield and including tram stops here are some others:

    • Bmblbzzz says:

      Interesting to see the bollards placed on the kerb between cycle path and car parking to, presumably, prevent/mitigate dooring.

  5. Jihn says:

    It’s easy to think of this in terms of the stop immediately outside the hospital. But presumably 50% bus journeys terminate on the opposite side of the road with people having to cross *all* road terrific in order to get to the hospital. That in mind, the placement of cycle traffic seems a minor issue.

    • Mark Williams says:

      There is/ was an underpass (with stairs) for walkers—although they would still be obliged to cross `uncontrolled’ motor vehicle accesses and side roads at street level. Note also that the top brass from the NHS trust are not that bothered about trying to veto floating bus stops at the other end of the journey for each of their customers. Obsessing about this single solitary stop just reinforces the suspicion that it is a proxy for some other grievance, real or imaginary.

  6. It’s my understanding that a zebra crossing for pedestrians to cross the cycle path at a bus stop bypass is not used in the Netherlands. When I looked on the Living Streets website before, they said that they thought floating bus stops should have a zebra crossing. Do you think this is a good idea, and would it appease the hospital trust?

    • The short answer, I think, is that it is context-dependent! In busy locations (i.e. where there are quite heavy flows of cycle traffic) a zebra is more appropriate. In other locations it’s probably unnecessary, because generally lightly-used cycleways are very easy to cross.

      • Tom Harrison says:

        I can’t think of an example where a zebra wouldn’t be preferable. Even if it’s lightly used, pedestrians should always get priority IMO. It would also be the easiest way of uniting all sensible people.

        • Bmblbzzz says:

          But a zebra is a double-edged sword in terms of pedestrian priority. It gives pedestrians (people walking, should we say? in line the non-cyclistisation of cycling?) priority at that specific point but takes it away, effectively, elsewhere, and explicitly in the zig-zag area. A more immediate practical problem is that people would be highly unlikely to use a zebra to cross a cycle lane IMO, just as they are highly unlikely to observe (either notice or follow) the distinction between pedestrian and cyclist sides of the white line on a ‘shared use’ pavement.

        • jan says:

          It completely depends on the situation. In the Netherlands, it’s impossible to give pedestrians the priority in all cases. The only way to achieve a guaranteed safe pedestrian crossing over a heavily used cycle path would be to introduce a traffic light controlled crossing.

          However, usually bus stops are close to a crossing. In case the bus stop is before the crossing, it will (from my dutch perspective) usually have a zebra crossing. But if the bus stop is directly after the crossing, you cannot introduce a zebra. If a large group of cyclists arrive with the bus, it would quickly lead to a traffic jam of cyclists blocking the crossing itself. It’s preferred to have the pedestrians waiting on the bus stop. The bike path will have alternating heavy traffic and no traffic at all, depending on the phases of the crossing, so it doesn’t need an additional traffic light for the pedestrian crossing.

          But with much lower cycling figures, you might get away with zebra crossings everywhere.

          • jan says:

            To be perfectly clear: Where I said ‘with the bus’, I meant: At the same time as the bus. I didn’t want to imply anything about taking your bike on the bus (which isn’t possible in the Netherlands)

    • Andy R says:

      These ‘mini zebras’ (without globes or zig-zags) for use across cycleways are now part of the revised traffic sign regulations, so there’s no need to be reticent in using them.

    • Thanks!
      In the mock-up picture by TfL rather ambiguous brown areas are provided for crossing, at the same level as the footway, and the cycle path goes up a hump. I don’t see the point of making it ambiguous – why not either have a zebra crossing, making it clear that pedestrians have priority, or have a dropped kerb down to the cycleway, making it clear that bikes have priority?

      I see that there is a pedestrian crossing near the bus stop. Perhaps signals for bikes could be integrated with this so that there is a signal controlled crossing of the cycleway for those that wish to use it.

      I was speaking to a Dutch guy about this, and he mentioned a large hospital in the Netherlands with a tram-stop bypass immediately outside it. I can’t remember the name of the place but I can ask him again.

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