Thursday, January 26, 2012

Euston - We Have a Problem

You know that thing where your partner comes home and you know s/he's had a haircut, but you can't tell the difference? Or it looks a little bit worse than it did before, but you know that a lot of expense has gone into it so you don't like to whinge too much?

Well, it's a bit like that with TfL's latest 'improvements' to Euston Circus, where Tottenham Court Road meets the Euston Road. Currently, this is about the busiest, most complex junction you could imagine. It has a lane for every day of the week in each direction.

TfL are taking out lanes at the junctions, widening pavements, and simplifying the junction for pedestrians. What they're not doing is making it any easier or safer for cyclists. In fact, if anything it's worse.

Let's take a quick look through the blurb:

"Euston Circus is dominated by road traffic..."

No shit, Sherlock.

"...and with increasing numbers of pedestrians and cyclists using the area, these designs will provide a significant improvement for existing users and for the anticipated growth in the number of users in the future."

By users, presumably you mean drivers? Cuz there ain't nothing new here for cyclists, beyond a couple of advance stop boxes that will a) be full of cars most of the time and b) be difficult to get into because two of the three have no approach lanes, and c) there's the same amount of traffic crammed into fewer lanes than before. How does that add up to an improvement?

"The Mayor’s vision for improving public spaces in London will ensure that our streets, squares, parks and green and water spaces are fit for a great world city, are enjoyed by everyone who visits them and most importantly, help improve the quality of life in the capital."

Enjoy? Quality of life? You can't use those phrases in the same sentence as "Euston Road". This is the most polluted place in the most polluted city in developed Europe!

"The key objectives of this scheme are to deliver improved facilities for pedestrians and cyclists, whilst minimising the impact on motorised traffic including buses."

Ah yes. I thought there was a catch. Now there's some improvements for pedestrians. The pavements are wider, so they can be lonely as well as depressed. There are fewer crossings, so they can get away from this brutal assault on the senses a bit quicker. They'll be able to get to University College Hospital more conveniently to get their lung conditions treated. But for cyclists, there isn't anything worthwile...because of the overarching priority of traffic flow.

Remember Kulveer Ranger's words, calling for "a step change in the way engineers think when planning road layouts. Historically our roads have been designed with motorists in mind. But that must change and the Mayor intends that with thousands more Londoners taking to two wheels their needs be given greater consideration than ever before."  That fell on deaf ears then.

Nothing short of proper Dutch-style paths will attract new cyclists to Euston Circus. But if that's not on the agenda then at least there should be measures to ensure cyclists who do use the junction are safe? Well, there aren't any. Bear in mind that a cyclist has to cross the Euston Road at some point if they are going north-south, and there aren't a lot of options. If you work in let's say Fitzrovia and you live in Kentish Town, that would be an ideal cyclable distance. But the prospect of Euston Circus will be enough to put  Lance Armstrong off cycling. Is it that unreasonable to expect to be able to cross a junction - a junction that is impossible to avoid without taking an unreasonable detour - by bike in safety? TfL think so, which is why they come up with crap like this, and they justify it with their usual bleating about traffic flow (cyclists aren't traffic you see, they just get in the way). Crap that is supposed to cope with "anticipated growth" in cycling, but whose only effect will be to crush London's aspirations for healthier, greener and cheaper transport between two lanes of fast-moving traffic.

Let them know your views.

1 comment:

  1. I commute through this junction on route from Kilburn to UCL. Turning right through the junction to head 'south' (more east). To a confident/foolhardy cyclist like myself it is not so terrifying due to the light phasing, you ran roll up to the front of the queue/take lane position in the right hand lane and just follow the traffic through the hard right/hard left turns.
    However if you're a novice/less confident then the only way to cross is via the lights with the pedestrians. I guess the easiest north south crossing you could make is a dedicated path/lights phase from hampstead road...