Friday, February 25, 2011

Blackfriars Bridge

Not an area I use much, but there's an awful lot of noise being made about changes to Blackfriars Bridge, which is, like most London bridges, an intimidating and dangerous place if you happen to be on a bike. Ross Lydal sums it up hereCyclists in the City says:

"My reading of this plan is that it's designed to allow cars to travel faster through the junction on more lanes. To make it less convenient for pedestrians. To make cycles part of the traffic flow, where they have to leg it across multiple lanes of relatively faster moving traffic than now."

This has the sniff of yet another scheme where TfL have been blindsided by their failure to understand cycling, or road safety. There are cycling people at TfL, but either they've been asleep on the job or they've not been consulted on a scheme covering one of London's most dangerous junctions. Frankly, this is negligent. According to Cyclists in the City TfL have been forced to extend consultation on the scheme, which means a whole tranche of public money has been wasted getting the design wrong in the first place. It's rather hard to avoid the conclusion that TfL is not fit for purpose when cycling is in the equation - and in central London in 2011, cycling is in the equation everywhere. I suggest this is a governance issue. One gets the impression that TfL is dominated by highways engineers schooled in a car-centric mindset, and public transport people for whom cycles simply get in the way. The Mayor needs to take the bull by the horns and restructure TfL so that the perspective of the cyclist is properly represented in road scheme design. After all, cycles represent 30% + of peak-hour traffic over this particular bridge. As someone commented on the Evening Standard article, perhaps the TfL management and engineers should 'eat their own dog food' and cycle the bridge themselves.

A final thought. Pretty much every London bridge is and intimidating and dangerous place for cyclists. I can't think of a single one that has anything other than a nod in the direction of accomodating cycles. Vauxhall at least has some attempt on the south side to help cyclists across the junction but it's some way from being satisfactory, and the southbound cycle lane is dangerously narrow. Lambeth Bridge has dangerous gyratories at both ends and a pathetically narrow cycle lane that's often blocked. Westminster is not too bad once you're on the bridge (barring the usual ice-cream van blocking the lane) but both north and south ends have problematic junctions. Waterloo is usually blocked on the north side in morning rush, and the Aldwych is a scary place, while the southern gyratory is lethal if you're southbound. For many cyclists, there is no choice but to use one of these bridges. Given the appalling record of cyclist injuries at every one of these bridges, you would think that improving the safety record of at least one would be a priority. But for TfL, cycle safety always seems to get trumped by traffic flow.

1 comment:

  1. Good points about the total lack of thought for cyclists on London's bridges.

    I would say that London Bridge isn't too bad for cyclists, at least northbound - more by accident, than by design, though. There is a bus lane, and the junction is not too difficult.

    However, southbound is - ludicrously - three lanes wide, and is often a race track at quieter periods.