Friday, January 15, 2010

Kennington Oval - LCN Route 3

If you are a cyclist, Kennington Oval is a mess. An unclear, illogical and downright dangerous mess. It is far and away the most dangerous point of my 11-mile commute, and I am amazed and concerned that nothing has been done to address the cycle facilities here, given that it is part of a busy LCN 3 cycle route. It's worth pointing out that children both walk and cycle to school along this route.

What am I on about?

Travelling northbound on Route 3, you emerge from Meadow Road into a housing estate and then out at a toucan crossing. Firstly, the pavement at the toucan crossing is nowhere near wide enough to accommodate both pedestrians and cyclists. Secondly, the toucan crossing is illogical, because there is no apparent right of way on the north side along the pavement for cycles. So why have a toucan crossing that goes nowhere? Is there in fact a right of way that is not signed? Most cyclists turn left into the bus lane, which gives rise to a second problem. It is necessary to turn right into the north part of Kennington Oval. This is extremely dangerous because a) there is no right-turn lane, and b) a stationary bicycle waiting to turn right at this point is not readily visible to motor vehicles in either lane because of the curve of the (very busy) road.

In the opposite direction, cycling south, you emerge from Vauxhall Street and turn right into Kennington Oval. At this point there are parked cars on both sides of the road which obscure the visibility of cyclists. Next, you turn left. There is a short cycle path on the pavement at this point, and this emerges onto the main carriageway. To turn right towards Meadow Road, it is necessary to get in the right-hand lane and wait at the toucan crossing to turn right. This is extremely dangerous as a) there is no right-turn lane; b) because it is not a road junction drivers may not expect stationary cycles in the middle of the road; c) a stationary bicycle waiting to turn right at this point is not readily visible to motor vehicles in either lane because of the curve of the road; d) if there are pedestrians and/or cycles waiting at the crossing (or indeed using the pavement) they may obstruct a right-turn (I personally witnessed a collision due to this). The alternative is to stay in the bus lane and mount the pavement to the left at the toucan crossing. However, the pavement is narrow at this point and if there are pedestrians at the crossing it may not be possible to mount the pavement (again, it's not clear if this is even legal).

So you might be wondering why nothing has been done about this. Maybe the local authority were unaware? No - they've been trying to find a solution for 7 years, apparently, but anything they do will have an impact on traffic flows at Vauxhall Cross so is opposed by TfL. They're hopeful they may be able to widen the pavement on Harleyford Road by the Oval, but even that's not a done deal because it would mean eliminating a short stretch of bus lane, so will be opposed by London Buses. And it only addresses one of the problems.

So there you have London cycling in a nutshell - even on the busiest cycle routes, cycling is lowest priority, behind every other mode of transport.

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