One of the papers presented at yesterday's TfL Board meeting was entitled Cycle Superhighways. Over 14 pages it outlined the latest proposals to deliver CS5 (between New Cross Gate and Victoria) and an extensionto CS2 (between Bow Roundabout and Stratford).
Both CS2x and CS5 are being used as testbeds of fresh ideas, such as early-start facilities for cyclists and Dutch-style bus stop bypasses. These are to be costed and assessed, and if successful will (where possible) be rolled out to future Cycle Superhighways. It could be a long wait. There hasn't been a new Cycle Superhighway since the summer of 2011, with these next two appearing two years later. Stratford High Street's extension will be completed first, with construction taking place between May and August. Here are a few facts and figures about CS2x taken from the report, which may help you to make your mind up whether it's worth it or not.
CS2x is scheduled to cost about four million pounds, most of that on construction. To put that into perspective TfL have then looked ahead to estimate what value of benefits will accrue over the next 30 years. They reckon cyclists will save a total of £38m over that period thanks to decreased journey times. A similar amount will be saved through health benefits, perhaps through Londoners keeping fitter or breathing in fewer exhaust fumes. £12m might be saved through improved safety benefits, thanks to segregated lanes and less awkward left turns. Throw in £9m of improved ambience, and that's almost £100m of positive impact.
But it won't all be good. There'll also be disbenefits, potentially significant, because the Cycle Superhighway extension will slow down non-cycling traffic. Freight vehicles will lose £5m over the next 30 years, and taxis will lose £4m. Buses and their passengers will lose more - that's £10m through slower journey times, plus £11m from increased operational costs. But it's general road traffic that suffers most. General road traffic is destined to lose £103m over the next 30 years - that's greater than the gains earned through cycling, and a greater disbenefit still if you throw in everything else on the road. Overall, it's anticipated, CS2x will lose money... but it'll also make London a better place in other ways.
TfL have drilled down and investigated these traffic disbenefits in some detail. They've used "robust TRANSYT and VISSIM modelling", whatever that is, to determine how journey times will be decreased, or more likely increased, once CS2x is built. They've done this for the morning and evening rush hours, because they're different, and for the two different directions, and for different kinds of traffic. Eastbound there's not much change. Travelling from the Bow Roundabout to Stratford usually takes about two and a half to four minutes, no matter what form of traffic you are. The Cycle Superhighway extension won't slow things down much, not by any more than thirty seconds, so travellers may barely notice. But westbound, ouch, they probably will.
Average westbound travel times - CS2x
5m 45s → 4m 46s
5m 55s → 5m 04s
8m 30s → 9m 38s
6m 53s → 8m 09s
5m 35s → 6m 39s
5m 18s → 6m 12s
4m 56s → 6m 02s
5m 58s → 6m 29s
5m 04s → 6m 25s
5m 49s → 6m 45s
It's very good news for cyclists travelling from Stratford to Bow. At the moment they're the slowest form of non-public transport (rattling through in approximately six minutes), but after CS2x is built they'll be the fastest. Cyclists will gain about a minute, whizzing along dedicated lanes and round the back of bus stops much faster than they do now. But everyone else will be slowed down by a minute, on average, after the roadway is narrowed and various junctions tweaked. It'll be particularly bad for buses, already the slowest way to travel because they stop frequently, but now destined to be slower still. I already think twice about taking the bus home from Stratford to Bow because they take so long queueing at the Bow Roundabout, so I'm not looking forward to the average travel time increasing to almost ten minutes.
This isn't the usual policy of "smoothing the traffic flow", it's putting the brakes on. What's especially interesting here is to see cyclists elevated in importance above other road users, which is precisely what so many campaigners demand but isn't usually delivered. In this case a transport improvement has been agreed which'll make life worse for the average driver, and nobody in authority seems to mind. Compare this to TfL's refusal to add pedestrian crossings at the Bow Roundabout "because it'd slow down the traffic", and CS2x really is a step change in terms of attitude. Will it be maintained at other sites? That's yet to be seen. But if you regularly ride your bike down Stratford High Street, expect to get home quicker, and more likely in one piece, later this year.