Last week TfL announced they'd be making cycling-friendly improvements at the Bow Roundabout. Nothing too intrusive, they said, because they didn't want any "knock-on disruption" which would lead to "significant additional road queues on the east and westbound approaches". A couple of potential options have been proposed, each supposedly to aid cyclists' safe progress. Yesterday I looked at option 1. Today, let's look at option 2.
On the face of it, this sounds like a great idea. Allow cyclists safe passage across the Bow Flyover, and then they won't have to go anywhere near the killer Bow Roundabout. Indeed, it seems that's what the majority of cyclists do already. According to TfL, "Currently around 60 per cent of all cyclists that travel through the area use the flyover, which provides a straight line from Bow Road to Stratford High Street." That's a serious indictment of current cycling policy hereabouts. TfL and their friends at Barclays have spent thousands of pounds adding Cycle Superhighway infrastructure to the Bow Roundabout, yet most cyclists deliberately choose to completely avoid it.
There would seem to be plenty of room across the Bow Flyover to create a dedicated segregated cycle lane. Eastbound the two lanes of normal traffic could easily be cut to one - there are rarely sufficient vehicles to justify two lanes, and the narrowing might slow down speeding cars a bit. Westbound there's already only one lane of traffic, so shifting it across for a new cycle lane shouldn't be a problem. Some cyclists might be put off by the incline, but it's not that severe, merely atypical for contour-free east London. Still sounds like a great idea, But, alas, there is a majorly impractical problem at either end.
The Bow Flyover veers off from the right hand lane of traffic, whereas the existing cycle lanes run to the left. This means, for any cycling improvement to be truly safe, some means has to be found of linking the two together across all the intermediate lanes. And that's not easy, when TfL's express desire is not to hold up the flow of traffic for other road users. At the moment 60% of cyclists are negotiating this lane change by themselves, pulling out diagonally in front of cars and buses and lorries, and risking life and limb in the process. It looks bloody dangerous to me, watching from the pavement, and if the flyover is to be the new safe route then it can't continue.
TfL's proposal is for four additional sets of traffic lights, one at each end of each side of the flyover. They'd be toucan crossings that only work when a cyclist presses the button, which means no chance of sailing through without stopping. I'd imagine this'll be especially annoying when riding (wheeee!) down the far side of the flyover, speeding downhill and then having to stop at the bottom to change the lights. But that's not the really stupid thing. The really stupid thing is TfL claiming they want to avoid "significant additional road queues on the east and westbound approaches", and then installing four new sets of traffic lights.
If option 2 goes ahead, one of the new sets of traffic lights will be installed here on the eastbound approach to the flyover. Cyclists will get to wait at a new toucan crossing, roughly where the bike is painted, then ride out diagonally to reach the end of the flyover. Other traffic using the flyover won't be halted - the lights won't affect them. But buses, cars and lorries attempting to reach the roundabout will be halted, approximately 100 metres after the last traffic lights (pedestrian crossing, Bow Church) and approximately 150 metres before the next (traffic lights, Bow Roundabout). It may be unintentional, but this cycling improvement adds further delays for the motorist and bus passenger, possibly as bad as installing a special cycling phase at the roundabout proper.
On the far side of the flyover, the new set of traffic lights would be just beyond Marshgate Lane, which is the main entrance to the Olympic Park. It'll have to be designed in conjunction with the existing set of traffic lights, but that's not going to be in any way efficient and will result in slowing down all traffic. The third set of lights would be across on the westbound approach to the flyover, this time narrowing the carriageway to one lane rather than two, which won't help smooth the traffic flow either. And back over on the Bow side of the flyover, still westbound, would be the fourth and final set. Again, these would interrupt traffic flow 100 metres after the previous lights (Bow Roundabout) and 150 metres before the next (pedestrian crossing, Bow Church). In total there are already six sets of traffic lights in the half mile from the Bow Flyover to Bow Road station - this new scheme would add a seventh.
So that's option 2. A safely segregated ride over the flyover for cyclists. But also four new sets of traffic lights at either end to slow down the traffic. And still every possibility that cyclists won't opt to pause and push the button, but will instead continue to divert across the traffic to reach the flyover as 60% of them do now. Oh, and still absolutely bugger all to help us local pedestrians cross safely. Sorry, I'm still not impressed. Two substandard options, both falling short of accessible practicality, are no success at all.