Thursday, February 9, 2012

TfL Junction Cycle Safety Review

Boris has re-announced the junction review he was stampeded into because of the outcry last year over the fatalities at the Bow Roundabout.

The review includes junctions on the existing Superhighways, plus 150 major junctions on the TLRN (Transport for London Road Network). For most improvements we'll have to wait till after the Olympic Games, cuz after all cycle safety is a lot less important than the ability of the big cheeses and corporate sponsors such as Dow Chemical to cruise from their Mayfair hotels to the Games venues in their BMW limos without delay.

But enough carping about the timetable, time to carp about the whole misconceived process.

Currently, almost all cycle routes in London are crap. If you improve the junctions, you'll have better junctions, but still connected by crap cycle routes - intermittent narrow, advisory lanes punctuated by parked vehicles. Anyone with an ounce (25g) of sense  can see that reviewing hundreds of junctions and digging them up is going to cost a fortune if you do it properly. That's a waste of money if you end up with cycle routes that taken end-to-end are no more appealing. I'll be difficult to improve junctions measurably without impacting traffic capacity; therefore you will create a situation where you've reduced traffic capacity without providing an alternative (subjectively safe cycle routes) to tempt people out of their cars.

What we need instead is a strategy that involves more than just junctions, and it must involve more than just the TLRN. We need to end up with a network of cycle routes that enables people to cycle to work, school or the shops in subjectively safe, pleasant surroundings via routes that are easy to follow and don't take them ridiculously out of their way. This will involve all the things they do in countries that do it successfully: filtered permeability to reduce through traffic on minor roads, shared spaces, and where the route follows a major road, segregated lanes.

Next, let's look at the steering group that has the job of overseeing the junction review process. It consists of:

  • TfL
  • Freight Transport Association 
  • Living Streets 
  • London Cycling Campaign 
  • Roadpeace 
  • Road Haulage Association 
  • Institute of Advanced Motorists 
  • London Technical Advisors Group 
  • Metropolitan Police Service
So, we have not one but two representatives of the haulage industry. They have no real interest in cycling, but a lot of interest in traffic flow.

Although the Institute of Advanced Motorists does good work around safety, it is at the end of the day a motoring organization.

TfL are responsible for the mess we're in now. As I pointed out before on this blog, there is a real risk that they simply cannot make the change from thinking exclusively about traffic flow to thinking about cycle safety. They don't have the skills, the mindset or the track record, plus there's a lot of skeletons in their cupboard (like the safety reviews they've ignored for Bow and Kings Cross) that they'd rather keep covered up. In other words, will they be more concerned with dodging blame?

Metropolitan Police Service - on the one hand, they have first-hand experience of having to deal with the consequences of TfL's handiwork. If they spent less time attending serious collisions, they could spend more time cracking crime. On they other hand, the Met is a pretty car-centric organization, and there are many in the service who don't take cycling or cyclists seriously. If you don't believe me, ask Martin Porter.

Sustrans is one of the few organizations that have a creditable record in terms of implementing cycle routes, so are a welcome group member.

Roadpeace are solely focused on safety, so again it's good to see them.

Living Streets are in favour of safe, enjoyable, attractive streets, so there is a common  agenda with cycling, although they are a pedestrian organization and their strategy makes no mention of cycling. There is a natural 'active travel' partnership between walking and cycling, but we should bear in mind that TfL has recently taken a 'divide and rule' approach at Blackfriars Bridge and Euston Circus, increasing pavement widths while failing to allocated space for cycling.

London Technical Advisors Group as far as I've been able to ascertain looks to be an organization of local borough engineers. As such, they have a somewhat-less-than-sparkling track record on cycling issues (with some exceptions), and there may be hidden agendas.

Lastly we have London Cycling Campaign. While it's had a somewhat ineffectual history, mainly oriented to vehicular cycling, and failing to stand up to TfL, it's recently campaigned far more effectively and is now advocating Dutch-style infrastructure.

My main concern is this. The three 'non-motorised' organizations are all charities, and have limited resources. There appears to dearth of professional experience of implementing quality cycle infrastructure as found on the Continent (this is not disrespectful of Sustrans by the way, it's just that most Sustrans infrastructure is off-carriageway and where it's not it's often compromised by the intransigent and car-centric attitudes of the local authorities that have to sign off the designs). This is hardly a recipe for success.

I'm going to leave you with this thought. One of the junctions up for review is the Stockwell Gyratory. This is a junction that was re-engineered as part of Cycle Superhighway 7, and TfL regarded it as evidence of their generosity towards cyclists that they'd removed a lane of general traffic on one side of it and put in a cycle lane. Two years on, it's regarded as so inadequate it's up for priority review. That truly is a damning indictment of TfL's failure in respect of cycling and in respect of stewardship of public money.


  1. The Stockwell Gyratory is a follow the CS lane in either direction requires you to take a "primary", preferably on the RHS, position in each ASL. This is assuming of course the ASL isn't full of scooters or cars already! This is needed as the CS lanes both start on the RHS of the junction as you ride off. Heading towards the city you are made to use the narrow strip of cycle lane with a seperating barrier between you and the motorised traffic heading that way that deposits you nicely into the (hopefully empty) ASL. Not ideal with the usual flow of riders and I tend to just ignore the cycle lane and use the normal lane.

    At least heading away from the city the CS lane serves double duty as a bus lane so you have a much larger target :-)

  2. "What we need instead is a strategy that involves more than just junctions, and it must involve more than just the TLRN. We need to end up with a network of cycle routes that enables people to cycle to work, school or the shops in subjectively safe, pleasant surroundings via routes that are easy to follow and don't take them ridiculously out of their way."

    Would you mind if I quoted you?