Thursday, March 3, 2011

Blackfriars Bridge - TfL's priorities - direct from TfL

I and others have been inferring that TfL's sole priority is motor traffic flow based on the empirical evidence of their highways projects, but now, in response to questions about the Blackfriars Bridge disaster - sorry, redesign - they seem to have confirmed it, as quoted on Cyclists in the City:

It is necessary to remove a short section of the southbound cycle lane in order to meet the significantly increased demand from pedestrians.  At the same time, TfL must bear in mind traffic flow across the bridge.  It is necessary to provide three southbound traffic lanes on the bridge...

It is necessary? No - it's a choice. A choice, in this case, between the safety of cyclists, demand from pedestrians and "traffic flow". And in TfL's judgement, cyclists' safety has to be the loser. Given that this location is very dangerous indeed and has a long history of deaths and serious injuries, that's a murderously cynical judgement call, and those responsible will likely have blood on their hands in short order.

Traffic flow (read here motor traffic flow) is not an absolute imperative. Current traffic flow results from the fact that the road network is the way it is. It does not follow that current traffic levels or traffic flow patterns are optimal, or that they can never be changed. Given that peak-hour cycling accounts for over a third of vehicle movements over this bridge, and that this location is on a direct line to the CSH#7 "superhighway" you would think that safety here mattered.

The redesign brings pedestrians up to street level, from subways that used to be there. In TfL's words:

The majority of the existing subways outside the station will close, and new surface-level pedestrian crossings will be provided in order to meet this enhanced demand.

Which is a fine thing to do, but it does have the disadvantage that pedestrians crossing the road, presumably impacts on traffic flow. My guess is that is why TfL feel the need to add extra lanes - to increase the rate of flow through the junctions to compensate for the loss of flow during the pedestrian cycle. Which rather begs the question: why close the subways? They've actually reduced the total capacity of the system by doing so. And in doing so, they've given themselves a problem them can only solve by sacrificing a few cyclists - literally - to appease the traffic flow gods.

 It is all very well for TfL to protest that they have a "statutory duty" to ensure expeditious traffic movement. They also have other obligations, duties and responsibilities, including the following taken from the Mayor's Cycle Safety Action Plan:

 PRIORITY 3.1.1: Work to ensure that all new road infrastructure contributes to improved safety of cyclists, including speed reduction measures, junction improvements, and awareness of cyclists‟ needs.

PRIORITY 3.1.2: Identify "high risk‟ locations on the road network for cyclists and advise on and implement site specific preventative measures.

PRIORITY 3.1.3: Promote good practice guidance for infrastructure design and operation, ensuring that LCDS are followed. Continue to develop and disseminate cycle design good practice.

3.1.5: Work with TfL and Borough maintenance teams to ensure that road conditions are adequate to ensure road safety for cyclists.

3.1.7 Work with London‟s engineering community to provide practical experience of cycling in London for engineers.

It's about time that TfL learned to walk and chew gum  - or even cycle and chew gum - at the same time. They cannot continue to hide behind "network assurance" and "traffic flow" to avoid their responsibilities for road safety. It's time the Mayor reminded TfL of this.


  1. To be fair, there are even more peds than cyclists using that junction, and underpasses are pretty much universally hated - especially by the mobility impaired, to whom TFL also has obligations.

    Cyclist safety should undoubtedly come before motor traffic flow rate in the center of the city though - I wonder if additional sets of traffic lights plus super-sized ASLs (or indeed staged lighting - give bikes 30 seconds of 'green' before motor vehicles, allowing them time to clear the most dangerous part of the junction) would solve some of the problems here.

  2. You raise a possibility I hadn't prevously considered - that the substantial extra pedestrian traffic crossing the road to get to the station will slow down traffic - which perhaps 'justifies' adding an extra lane for motors in this very short stretch between Queen Vic St/New Bridge St and the start of the bridge.

    It still doesn't add up - because there will be traffic light red phases both at the bottom of New Bridge St and the end of QVS - each to let the other pass - pedestrians can be easily accomodated reaching the station by crossing first New Bridge St in a W-E direction - on a crossing they propose to remove - and then by cropssing QVS to the station entrance.

    These light phases are already there and traffic copes absolutely fine with only two lanes. This way they wouldn't need a crossing to the new traffic island, which would avoid creating a second set of lights just after the first and for which they perhaps think they need extra width to comepnsate.

    As I say, two lanes work fine already, one to go west on the embankment and the other to go south on the bridge - where you immediately hit the restriction to a single general traffic lane due to the bus lane starting.

    They are just too lazy to think it through - the design was driven by Network Rail who are designing it for their own ends, ie to get foot passengers in, and then reviewed only by road engineers who don't give a toss about bicycles.

  3. If you do ever talk to them about traffic flow, ask them how they have disproved "Brasses' Paradox" -the concept of induced demand. All improving motor traffic flow will do is create more traffic and congestion.

    Leaving motor traffic flow as is and improving walking and cycling will make them better options and reduce demand for more motor traffic improvements elsewhere in the system.

  4. Got an update on how they did their surveys/traffic analysis. Email bristol.traffic at and I'll forward you the message.