Friday, November 18, 2011

All Cycle Superhighway Junctions to be Reviewed

A couple of days ago, after the news that the design of Bow Flyover Roundabout, scene of two recent fatal collisions, was to be reviewed, this blog commented:

"It's important that everyone realises that Bow is the tip of a very considerable iceberg. Fixing Bow, if TfL is minded to do it, won't fix any of the other more dangerous junctions."

Kulveer Ranger, the Mayor's director of environment is today reported as saying:

"Work is beginning on how London gears up to move to the next level of cycling infrastructure and continuing to improve safety for cyclists. This includes a commitment from TfL to review all major schemes planned on TfL roads as well as to review all the junctions on the existing cycle superhighways."

Sounds like good news! After all the protests and news coverage, finally a result? Don't count your chickens just yet folks. Getting TfL to do something for cycling is like trying to get a teenager to tidy their room. With a lot of threats and cajoling you may be able to get them to make a reluctant effort if you stand over them while they do it, but you'll face exactly the same struggle next time, and the time after, until at some time in the future the scowling youth internalizes the need for tidiness and understands that it's not an optional part of life. Right now, like the teenager, TfL is much more interested in fast cars.

What exactly does "review all the junctions" mean? A quick look at CSH#7 on Google Maps reveals there are approximately 135 junctions between the start at Colliers Wood and the Stockwell Gyratory junction. I've counted all the minor road junctions. Are they going to review every single one? Well they should, because over that same stretch, there have been 41 serious or fatal incidents involving cyclists between 2000 and 2008 that didn't occur at the major junctions, and only 10 at major junctions (5 of those at the Stockwell Gyratory). And my personal experience of riding the route (which is I suggest rather more extensive than TfL's) suggests that the minor junctions represent very significant hazards, with motorists emerging from side-roads without looking, or turning right into minor roads across two lanes of motor traffic without being able to see cyclists coming up the blue lane.

Second, what does "review" actually mean? Is this "review" in the sense of a "review" of the Blackfriars Bridge scheme, where nothing much changed? In point of fact, there is less a need for reviews, than for TfL to stop ignoring its own experts. The BBC's Tom Edwards has revealed that there was a report produced for TfL highlighting the problems of CSH2 that said of the Bow Roundabout:

"Toucan crossings should be installed on the north and south sides of the roundabout. And "off-carriageway cycle lanes" should be provided around the roundabout, to "encourage less confident cyclists to use the route".

As Tom points out:

"someone made a decision to ignore the advice of TfL's own traffic consultants"

I wonder who that someone was, and if they sleep soundly at night? And I wonder if that someone will be involved in the "reviews"?

Quite simply, TfL cannot conduct the CSH junction reviews themselves. There is a clear conflict of interest: they cannot lead an impartial review of safety, when they know that the outcomes may well (and jolly well should, in my humble opinion) raise awkward questions of their individual and collective conduct and competence.

I pointed out a couple of days ago, the Bow junction, and indeed the other dangerous CSH junctions, are not the way they are because someone screwed up. They are that way because of TfL's priorities and approach to highway design. So it's not just the Superhighway junctions that need a review - it's TfL itself. There needs to be a change of agenda. The "traffic flow" imperative can no longer be allowed to trump "safety" in every critical decision. This is as much a cultural issue as an engineering issue, and it is very difficult to see anything changing while TfL is structured as it is and while the same faces remain. Anyone got a new broom?

Lastly, it's not reviews we need. It's action. As yet, there's been no commitment to actually doing anything about the dangers, and no indication of the terms of the reviews. The CSHs are broken by design, and it's going to take a considerable amount of investment to fix them. Boris is in a tight spot. On the one hand, if he tries to wriggle out of doing anything having blinked over the Bow tragedies, he will look like a ditherer, cynically trying to whitewash the blood off the road. On the other hand, if he commits to substantial changes, he is open to the charge of having misconceived and mismanaged the original CSH project, in doing so having wasted at least some of the near £40M spent so far.


  1. I wonder whether the families of the two recent Bow victims could make a case for a civil action for negligence or tort against TfL, given what we now know about the advuice they ignored? Resorting to m'learned friends can be an expensive (but possibly contingent-fee) and distressing affair, but is there really anything else which would make TfL sit up and take notice, if not a potentially large compensation payout and being exposed to careful professional and public scrutiny through the courts system?

    In fact, if you add the eents at Kings Crossand no doubt you could add other examples, you could submerge them in writs.

  2. Pedestrian Liberation has a timely post about road casualties. Titled "The casualties of war", it's here: