Technically no - the Elephant & Castle northern roundabout has a far worse record. But the Bow Flyover roundabout is a bloody disgrace, both for pedestrians and cyclists, as was tragically proven yesterday morning.
It's not clear precisely what happened, indeed I wouldn't want to speculate. But this is a roundabout on which millions of pounds have been spent in the last year, and yet it's still a death trap. Why is that?
Take Cycle Superhighway 2, for example, of which the Bow Flyover roundabout is the eastern terminus. Weeks were spent earlier this summer remodelling the centre of the roundabout, then adding two segregated cycle lanes above the A12 underpass. These few metres are wonderfully safe. But then there's a simple blue line painted in a broad curve across the carriageways, and that's evidently not very safe at all. Watching cyclists whizzing up and down CS2, it often looks as if they think the blue strip permits them some sort of priority. But where that blue strip cuts across the entrance and then exit of a very major roundabout, a few pots of paint award no protection whatsoever to those cycling through. On the Bow side, eastbound, there's a travesty of a cycle lane that I've reported on before, where CS2 lies beneath half a lane of queueing traffic which cyclists have no chance of passing through. And on the Stratford side the lane suddenly veers up onto the pavement and peters out, because TfL and Newham Council can't agree on how it should continue. CS2 should be a major improvement to local infrastructure, but here provides a woefully inadequate cycling solution.
Then there's Bow's new floating towpath, constructed at a cost of £2.4m, which enables cyclists and pedestrians to pass underneath the roundabout in perfect safety. Genuinely fantastic, but only of benefit if you're cycling north-south along the River Lea and no use at all for any other crossing. Local resident trying to cross from Bow to Stratford? No use whatsoever. Cyclist trying to ride from the A12 onto the A11? No use whatsoever. Rambling party striding down the Lea Valley Walk from Walthamstow Marshes to the Limehouse Cut? Absolutely perfect, step right this way please.
As a very local pedestrian, I remain amazed by how incredibly life-threatening the Bow Flyover roundabout is. Here two dual carriageways meet, which means four entry roads and four exits, of which only the former are traffic-light controlled. Nothing pelican or puffin, nothing push button, just a red light stopping the traffic that turns to red/amber and green with no prior warning whatsoever. But that's heaven compared to the four exit roads, where a steady stream of traffic could be on its way at any time, often without signalling, and pedestrians take their life in their hands every time they cross. Nearly got me last night, in fact, until I burst into a brief jog to avoid an oncoming car. I give thanks that I'm not elderly, because I probably wouldn't dare risk it, and were I in a wheelchair I'd have absolutely no hope whatsoever. Millions of pounds recently spent, no doubt because this is the nearest major road junction to the Olympic Stadium, and yet this is still a scarily-dangerous accessibility-deficient roundabout.
TfL's overriding priority at the Bow Flyover roundabout is clearly vehicular traffic. Cars and lorries and buses would be held up if pedestrian crossings were introduced, and that's why no such crossings have yet been installed. This is a key London road junction, and the queues that could be caused by a succession of button-pressing pedestrians might have gridlock repercussions. I can fully understand why TfL are quite so reticent, because a significant number of travellers would be disadvantaged by a Bow Flyover slowdown. But the priority surely ought to be safety, rather than piecemeal interventions that deliver merely partial solutions. Yesterday's tragic death highlights the dangers we all face, whether on wheels or on foot, when journeying on London's roads. At the Bow Flyover, alas, that danger remains far greater than it needs to be.
What's on this weekend? Spring Into Summer Saturday 30 & Sunday 31 May
40 free guided London walks. Purley Festival Friday 29 - Sunday 5 June
Bunting week, below Croydon. E17 Art Trail Sat 30th May - Sun 14th June
250 arty Walthamstow things.