Thursday, June 13, 2013

A Long Way to Go - Cycle Superhighway 5

It's good to know that TfL is not deaf to the comments of cyclists in respect of the CSH#5 plans. For those of you who didn't see the original plans, they were good in parts, and a lot better than the original quit-when-the-going-gets-tough approach taken by TfL on the original CSH#7 and CSH#8.

But they were still quite a way short of Continental best practice.

The response to the consultation shows a bit of movement in the right direction.

"The redesigned proposals for the central London – Oval section of the route will also contain a greater degree of full segregation."

Well that's good news, although we'll have to wait till later in 2013 to see exactly what this means. The key point is that a cycle route is only as good as its worst part. Having bits of full segregation is no use if it's punctuated regularly with dangerous junctions or loading bays.

"Improved shared crossing and extended footway opposite Meadow Road"

This is great news. Meadow Road is where the existing LCN#3 route crosses Harleyford Road, and a right dog's breakfast of a junction it is too. Going north, you have to emerge from the crowded pelican crossing and hope that a driver lets you into the right-hand lane. You then have to make an right turn unprotected by any traffic island or right-turn reservoir, where the sight-lines for drivers coming from in front of you and behind are impaired due the bends in the road. You're at real risk of a rear-end or head-on shunt here, and it's a miracle no-one's been killed here yet.

"Semi-segregation of New Cross Gate – Oval sections – during 2014"

The construction has now been planned into phases stretching from 2013 to end 2015. We'll have "semi-segregation" on this section, although exactly what that means even TfL don't know. They say it will involve "cats’ eyes, rumble strips, traffic wands or similar, or a combination thereof". Cats eyes? Traffic wands? It all sounds a bit Harry Potter doesn't it? Maybe the traffic will magically evaporate?

It all sounds a lot better than what we're used to, but the fact remains that even after these changes we're still left with only "semi-segregation" and "a greater degree of full segregation" on what will be the one of the newest and best cycle routes in London - the benchmark against which all the other crap can be measured. If you were a glass-half-empty kind of person, you might call it "partial semi-segregation".  It's not Holland. It's more like standing in Felixstowe and dipping your toe in the North Sea.

Meanwhile, Andrew Gilligan, the Mayor's cycling champion has been writing in the Standard about how TfL are actually planning to enforce the advance stop line law. The only reason ASLs are necessary is because most junctions in London have been engineered in a seriously cycle-hostile way. Bikes should never be mixed up with multiple lanes of fast-moving traffic turning in different and conflicting directions. ASLs are a half-baked excuse for a solution to this problem. Getting to the advance-stop-box is usually a hit-or-miss business: often the approach lane is blocked by traffic, and of course there's always the chance of the lights changing before you get there, leaving you trying to filter between lanes of drivers, any one of which could be on a mobile phone, looking at a sat-nav, or reading the paper.

Ticketing drivers for encroaching on the stop-box might free up a few square metres of roadspace (and raise a handy couple of quid), but the fact is most junctions are broken by design, and in the majority of cases,  motorists creeping over the ASL are the least of your problems.

Last piece of news. When the "London Cycling Awards" edition of London Cyclist dropped through my letterbox this month, I eagerly thumbed through to page 31 to find out which piece of Dutch-style infrastructure had won the "Best Borough Cycling Project". I had a feeling it wouldn't be Merton, because there is hardly an embarrassment of decent cycle engineering around here. I was right. The joint winners were -wait for it - Camden and the City of London, for converting one-way streets to two way. To give you an idea of how underwhelming that is, consider this. These are the best projects in London this year (in LCC's opinion at least). Three or four years ago I visited Brussels, and I noticed that almost all the one-way streets there have cycle-exceptions. Brussels is nowhere near the top of the European league in terms of cycling modal share or quality infrastructure. So in a couple of the most enlightened boroughs in London, we are starting to get to where low-achieving Brussels has been for some time.

Let's face facts. There's been a lot of talk about "going Dutch" recently, and while the car-centric tide may have turned, we still have a long way to go. The fact that two-way cycling, ASL enforcement and partial semi-segregation (sometime in 2014) are hailed as major achievements speaks volumes. If the goal is, in Andrew Gilligan's words, to "attract more women, older people, more slow cyclists and lower the overall testosterone level",  then we just hit the corner flag.

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