diamond geezer

 Friday, March 30, 2012

Here goes...
Improvement works to begin at Bow roundabout
It was back in January that TfL announced they'd be redesigning the Bow Roundabout, in response to two tragic deaths caused by left-turning lorries last summer. They proposed two possible options for improvement, which I discussed in some detail here and here. And now they've announced their decision.
Transport for London (TfL) has confirmed that work will begin in April on making further cycle safety improvements at Bow roundabout, including the Capital's first ever 'early start for cyclists' system, which will give cyclists their own separate green light phase.

Ooh, traffic signal innovation, at the bottom of my road, in lowly E3. This is option 1, providing an advanced stop line for cyclists, then holding drivers back with a separate red light of their own. It's suddenly popular, this 'early-start' idea, not just with TfL but also as part of Ken's transport manifesto launched this week. Cyclists will nip ahead of the main body of traffic into a special 12m-long waiting area, and be let out onto the roundabout a few seconds early. That's a huge additional space, the right hand side of which will be almost completely wasted, but it all helps put some distance between them and the killer lorry wheels behind. [video]
Cycling groups and local authorities have been consulted on design proposals for the roundabout and Transport for London will now begin work on improvements including a green light phase, which will allow cyclists to move onto the junction ahead of other traffic.
That's what'll happen while the main body of traffic is stopped on red. But when cars, trucks and buses start moving onto the roundabout from Bow Road, cyclists will be asked to stop and wait and watch as everyone else goes by. Yeah right. I'd hazard a guess that several cyclists will jump their new red light, or deviate down the main road instead, nullifying any positive effects that these new early-start lights might bring.
This will significantly reduce the potential for conflict between cyclists travelling straight across the roundabout and vehicles turning left.
Indeed it should, if cyclists play by the rules. They'll have ridden past the deadly first yards of the roundabout by the time any large vehicles attempt to turn left into precisely the same space, which should avoid serious injury or death. It's going to slow the traffic down though, extending every red light phase by a couple of seconds or so, which can only lengthen traffic delays at busy times.
Work will also be carried out to widen the road space and provide a cycle lane that will be separated from traffic on the approach to the early start.
This is work which should have been carried out a year ago, but the cheapskates who installed Cycle Superhighway 2 deemed it unnecessary. They painted half a lane blue, leaving eastbound cyclists to fight their way through queueing traffic to reach the existing advanced stop zone. Now, finally, there'll be a proper segregated bike lane, just like there ought to have been in the first place. It'll gouge a metre and a bit out of the pavement, but we pedestrians will barely notice the difference.

Unfortunately, as I've mentioned before, this shiny new cycle lane starts in a very dangerous place. Less than ten metres from the entrance to the new cycle lane is a bus stop, serving 50 buses an hour, through which Cycle Superhighway 2 disappears. When the bus stop's full, cyclists have to swing out into the traffic to avoid the big red obstruction, then nip back in again to join the new cycle lane. That's cyclists moving to the left while the bus will be pulling out to the right across precisely the same piece of road, which surely means a greatly increased risk, not an improvement.
New signals will be installed and conditions will also be improved for pedestrians and cyclists using the junction as unnecessary signs and street clutter will be removed.
That's a very cleverly worded sentence. Yes, new signals will be installed, but they'll only be for cyclists. Yes street clutter will be removed, but that won't help pedestrians cross the road. They'll see no safety improvements whatsoever, despite the millions spent on their two-wheeled brethren, despite this being a scandalously dangerous junction for those on foot to negotiate. Indeed, I'd expect an additional cycle lane and additional unsynchronised lights to make the roundabout even harder to cross, not easier.
As part of their considerations, TfL looked again into the possibility of installing signalised pedestrian crossings on Bow Roundabout. Initial traffic modelling showed that the knock-on disruption to all road users, including cyclists, would lead to significant additional road queues on the east and westbound approaches, as well as additional bus delays to the six bus routes that travel through the area and a significant increase in pollution due to vehicle idling.
Typical. Two months of intensive thought, and TfL still have no proposed solution to improve the Bow roundabout for those of us on foot. I'm not entirely surprised. This is a key East London road junction, and very hard for road traffic to avoid, so eight new push-button crossings might well make the entire local area seize up. But although it's now perfectly acceptable to give cyclists their own additional seconds at the traffic lights, it seems we pedestrians don't merit the same priority.
TfL will keep the junction under review following these cycling improvements and will continue to investigate potential designs to allow pedestrian crossings to be installed in the future.
So there is hope for a proper pedestrian upgrade one day. It'll take a radical idea, and a shedload of money, to come up with an acceptable solution. But I fear that the best opportunity in a generation has just slipped by, and pedestrian safety at the Bow Roundabout will slip off the radar again until one of us gets killed. Fingers crossed that this latest announcement means nobody on two wheels ever will again.

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