diamond geezer

 Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The extension to Cycle Superhighway 2 was officially opened last month, you'll remember. It's the best bit of cycling infrastructure in London, you'll recall. It has properly segregated lanes, and bus stop bypasses, and a two-stage right turn - indeed all the protection a cyclist needs to get from Bow to Stratford in one piece. Except it's not turned out so well if you travel by bus. In fact, the extension of CS2 has made local bus travel much worse.

(I should have spotted this myself. I've been past enough times, I've even been past on the bus, but I didn't notice, or else I thought it was something TfL had yet to get round to. So well done to the East London Advertiser for noticing, and publicising the sheer uselessness of it all. They also got proper photos, including the money shot of several angry residents pointing at the offending section, because they visited in daylight. It being mid-December I can alas only offer you this grainy after-dark shot, but hopefully you'll get the idea.)

Marshgate Lane is the bus stop that vanished. It used to be there until CS2x came along, and now it's gone. All the other bus stops along Stratford High Street got bus stop bypasses, but Marshgate Lane missed out. All the other bus stops had wide pavements, or lay-bys, or both, so there was plenty of room for a bypass. But the Marshgate Lane bus stop lay too close to the fence outside Central House, so there wasn't space to squeeze an extra blue lane round the back.

Instead a blue line was painted in front of the bus stop, dividing the lay-by from the main flow of traffic. For a bus to pass from the main traffic to the lay-by would therefore have involved crossing CS2 once on the way in, and again on the way out. Hardly optimal infrastructure, that, bringing stopping buses into direct conflict with cyclists. So, faced with imperfection, TfL have simply closed the bus stop. Not just closed it, they've taken it away... removed the post, the shelter, everything. There is no bus stop at Marshgate Lane any more, just an empty lay-by where six bus routes used to stop, marooned behind a blue strip of paint. It's lovely for bikes, who can whizz safely past, but it's rubbish for bus passengers. Because, well, it is rather a long way to the next bus stop.

I thought I'd test this out by taking a ride on the number 25 bus east from Bow Church. Everything seemed normal enough, at least to start with. I checked the on-screen display as we reached the Bow Roundabout and, as expected, it said the next stop was "Marshgate Lane". So I dinged the bell and the display changed to "Marshgate Lane - Bus stopping". So I walked down the stairs to wait by the door... and hey presto, the bus drove straight past. And on past the traffic lights, and on past the traffic lights, and on past the traffic lights, until finally the bus pulled up at the stop beyond the Greenway. This has a bus stop bypass, indeed in the darkness I nearly stepped into the path of an oncoming bike because I was so annoyed at being dropped 500 metres from where I wanted to be.

And then it took me five minutes to walk back again. That may not sound too bad, but I'm a fit fast-walking adult, and goodness knows how any elderly residents at Central House would cope. There is a slightly nearer bus stop, the stop immediately before Marshgate Lane, but that's on the other side of the Bow Roundabout... and as we all know, TfL have provided no safe way for pedestrians to cross the Bow Roundabout. Essentially they've just created a half mile gap on the busiest bus route in London, and all because nobody can design a Cycle Superhighway properly.
(It's even worse for passengers on route 339. The previous stop is on Fish Island, way back up the A12. There's now a mile long gap on this bus route, from Autumn Street to Warton Road, where the bus driver won't stop and you can't alight. Even worse it's not possible to walk this particular gap because the A12 doesn't have a pavement. Either you backtrack and walk down the unlit River Lea towpath, or you catch the overshooting bus and walk back. It's a damned poor arrangement)

I mean, seriously, how rubbish is this?

And that would have been the end of my rant, had not the East London Advertiser done some proper journalism. They've reported the real story, which isn't just design ineptitude, it's also legal ineptitude. It seems a solid white line has been painted between the main carriageway and the Superhighway, all the way along this stretch of road past the Marshgate Lane bus stop. It wasn't supposed to be there, but whoever completed the traffic order for the cycle lane accidentally left it in. And the problem with a solid white line is that buses aren't allowed to cross it.
Bus drivers would have to break the Highway Code if they crossed the line to pick up passengers. “Rule 140 states drivers must not drive or park in a cycle lane marked by a solid white line during its times of operation,” Transport for London has told frustrated residents.

“The traffic order for the cycle lane was originally intended to allow buses to stop at Marshgate Lane by crossing the cycle lane. However, this was unfortunately missed out.”
All that's needed here is a dotted white line, rather than a solid white line. Then buses would be allowed to cross into the lay-by again, and TfL could reinstall the bus stop, its shelter and a decent service. You'd think that'd be easy, but seemingly not, there must be awkward legal or contractual complexities. So instead of sorting these out, TfL have simply removed the bus stop from the roadside leaving nothing in its place... then compounded the problem by failing to remove it from the on-bus display. It's not an impressive record. But that's Cycle Superhighway 2 for you, with "making life worse for bus passengers" now added to its long list of achievements.

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