So the Cycle Superhighway 2 extension opened yesterday, but not officially. Cones were removed and cyclists started riding along the segregated lanes, but nobody came along and cut a ribbon. TfL were definitely planning a launch and "media event" on Thursday, but they missed the deadline and this never materialised. I can't say I'm surprised. Even last Sunday CS2x was far from finished, and a 50-strong hi-vis army was busy repositioning kerbs and painting tarmac. The work's still not complete - at least two of the junctions aren't ready and not enough signs are in place. I hope the contractors are being duly fined for their tardiness. But one further weekend blitz should do it, and then the media can turn up next week and focus their cameras appropriately.
As a local resident I got a leaflet through my letterbox yesterday exhorting me to try "your new way to get around" and "discover the joys of cycling". No thanks, not while the rest of CS2 is so inadequate, not a hope. But I did go for a walk yesterday along half the extension, from the Bow Roundabout to the Greenway and back again, to see how the project's stacking up. It was the height of the evening rush hour and eastbound traffic was jammed solid, so my experience probably isn't representative. But here are some things I spotted along the way, some of which weren't what I expected.
Cycle early start, westbound
This is the updated approach to the Bow Roundabout, very similar to the double lights that've been on the eastbound for a year. Traffic holds back while cyclists filter in front, then they get away first when the lights change. Except it's not working like that. I stood around for a few minutes during which time three cyclists turned up, and every single one of them jumped the final red light. They did this safely, because no traffic was coming round the roundabout at the time, but that's not how traffic lights are meant to work. Admittedly this is a tiny sample, entirely statistically inadequate, but it matches behaviour I've seen repeatedly coming the other way. TfL will tut and say they've built something that's safe if used properly, but I'd argue their early start design actually increases the number of red light jumpers, so is far from being an ideal solution.
Bow Flyover bus stop bypass
The idea here is that cyclists nip round the back of the bus stop, which has been pushed out towards the traffic making space for a narrow bike channel behind. There is a designated crossing point for pedestrians, but as yet there are no markings on the ground nor any signs to indicate to pedestrians where that crossing point is. This blue hump in the blue cycle lane is especially hard to see after dark. Also somewhat hard to see, it seems, is the entrance to the bus stop bypass itself. The blue lane veers left into a channel in the surrounding pavement, but many cyclists are riding straight past towards the bus stop itself. Maybe they think it'll be quicker, but then they end up in the wrong place for the cycle early stop lights ahead and lose out. I'm surprised there isn't an arrow or a logo or something painted at the entrance to the bypass lane, because I don't think the way to go is entirely obvious, especially not after dark.
Westbound segregated lane
It's an impressive width, this. In many places you could park a car between the barrier and the kerb, which leaves plenty of space for cyclists, even for cyclist to overtake cyclist if necessary. The blue lane's a bit intermittent in places, breaking for every sideroad and access point along the way, so it's no panacea. But compared to the original CS2 you'd feel pretty safe here, I reckon. So it was a surprise to see quite how few cyclists were taking advantage. I walked up CS2x for ten minutes at "going home" time, and only fifteen bikes went by. Maybe that's because this was the "into Central London" direction, but I was expecting Stratford High Street to be much busier with cyclists. When you're on a bus queuing in the two lanes alongside, you have to wonder if blue paint is the best use of the entire third lane.
Greenway puffin crossing
Hurrah! Atempting to cross Stratford High Street at the Greenway has been impossible for years, with a barrier along the centre of the road forcing awkward diversions to left or right. A straight-across crossing was installed for the Olympics, then barriered off immediately afterwards, now re-engineered into two staggered sections. And it's open, actually open, which is excellent. The driver of this change is joining up both sides of the Greenway for cyclists, with pedestrians the added beneficiary. Never mind that the Greenway into the Olympic Park has been closed for years, and will be for two more while Crossrail do their stuff... this is thinking ahead. But the lights have been timed to allow pedestrians an interminable time to cross. Maybe someone at TfL thinks they're being very kind to the elderly, but I watched a mother cross with a toddler, and they could easily have walked back again in the time it took before the traffic moved again. Forget "smoothing the traffic flow", instead TfL's new puffin crossings unnecessarily slow it down.
Eastbound segregated lane
I expected this to be much busier. Half past five in the evening, the heart of the rush hour... but barely any cyclists passed. Again I walked alongside CS2x for ten minutes, and again only fifteen bikes went by. Worse, about half of them weren't even using the new blue lane. Two were riding on the pavement, which to be fair is vast here, indeed it's odd that CS2x's blue lane wasn't carved out of the mega-pavement instead. The other five were in the road, weaving through the traffic, which I thought was odd until I realised where they were coming from. These were cyclists who'd chosen to ride over the Bow Flyover rather than following the blue line round the Bow Roundabout, so they'd arrived on the wrong side of the traffic away from the blue strip. TfL's designers have been good and left a big gap in the barrier, but these cyclists weren't seeing it, or weren't wanting to use it. All in all, the brand new Cycle Superhighway extension was getting less than one user per minute. That might improve, indeed should improve, once word gets out that Stratford High Street's much safer to ride. But CS2x isn't yet properly signposted, nor fully integrated into its surroundings, so let's give it time. Best I come back later and report properly.