diamond geezer

 Saturday, December 15, 2012

How did I miss this? Has it been kept quiet, or am I just very unobservant?

A TfL consultation is underway for "further safety improvements at Bow roundabout". Earlier this year they provided a cycle early-start on the eastbound approach, and now they're proposing something similar for westbound riders. The consultation opened on 28 November, and it closes on 19 December. Best hurry up if you want make your voice heard, and it might even be positive this time.

TfL reassure us that the eastbound changes are working well. They've been monitoring with cameras, and claim that "the eastbound early-start has been effective in reducing the left turning conflict risk that it was designed to address". It would have been hard to increase it, to be frank. TfL also say that "the cycle lane on the approach is well-used, with significantly fewer cyclists using the footway than before". And you'd expect that, because who wouldn't rather use a dedicated cycle lane than a pavement given the choice. A significant proportion of cyclists still don't use the facilities appropriately, that's my observation, and first-timers often don't understand how the forest of lights works. But, lessons learned, how do the suggested westbound changes measure up? [map]

Almost exactly the same set-up is proposed on the Stratford High Street side as on Bow Road. A dozen metres of road will be painted blue to become an early-start zone, immediately ahead of the roundabout. All other vehicles will start further back at separate lights, giving those on two wheels a head start before anything turns left on top of them. If used properly, by all road users, further deaths at this accident black spot might be made much less likely. Equally, as I've seen on the other side, the early-start may tempt more cyclists to jump the red lights because it now looks safer to do so.

The westbound approach will be via a short segregated cycle lane, as on the eastbound, preceded by a longer section that's merely a painted strip down the side of the road. But there's one added bonus here, something the Bow side hasn't got, and that's evasive action at the bus stop. Buses stopping at the Bow Flyover currently pull into a layby, and it would be seriously dangerous to have them cutting across a cycle lane then back out again. So the plan is to fill in the lay-by, shifting the bus stop out into the main traffic, and then use the added space round the back for a bike lane bypass. Clever and very safe, you'd think, and you'd be right... for cyclists.

There is a potential problem, and that's for anyone trying to use the bus. The former layby becomes a long thin island, surrounded on one side by the main road and on the other by the cycle lane. Those alighting from a bus won't be able to escape without crossing one or other, most probably the cycle lane, and those trying to catch a bus will face the same dilemma. TfL have thought about this, and plan to lay a crossing point adjacent to the bus stop. Will cyclists pause to allow pedestrians to walk 150cm across their bike lane? I doubt it. Will pedestrians cross the cycle lane wherever the hell they like rather than where the designers would like them to? You can bet on it.

And that's about it. The new cycle lane will only cover the last hundred metres of Stratford High Street, and before that you're on your own. Cycle Superhighway 2 never extended this far, and still won't, because these are merely improvements to the set-up at the roundabout. But improvements they truly are. Perhaps you'd like to nip off now and tell TfL's consultation exercise how much you approve.

Or, if you're a pedestrian, maybe not. This is the third tweak to the Bow roundabout in twelve months, yet there's still nothing to make this lethal junction any safer for those on foot. The roundabout now has two early-start boxes for cyclists, some sculptures in the middle of the roundabout, even illuminations to make the concrete look pretty at night, but still no safe means of crossing any of the four exit roads. Additional lights would slow down the flow of the traffic, remember, and that's not permitted these days.

Meanwhile on the eastbound side, the Bow Flyover bus stop continues to be an embarrassing point of confrontation. The Cycle Superhighway passes straight through the lay-by, unless there's a bus blocking it, in which case dangerous manoeuvres are required to slip back into the segregated lane. A bus stop bypass would be ideal here except there isn't room, not without buying up some of McDonalds' car park or closing off the lay-by altogether.

At least TfL promise "We continue to explore further improvements for cyclists and pedestrians as part of planned longer-term regeneration of the Bow area", but I still can't see how this knotty problem might be solved to the satisfaction of all parties.

Whatever, the latest consultation ends on Wednesday, and then construction of the new cycle early-start begins in January. The update at the Bow roundabout will happen whether you say you like it or not, but your views might help improve similar rollouts elsewhere in town.

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