diamond geezer

 Tuesday, January 28, 2014

They switched on the low level cycle lights at the Bow Roundabout yesterday. I don't know who "they" were, but somebody ripped off the black plastic coverings first thing to reveal the brand new eye-height signals, the very first to be used in the UK. It's all part of a DfT/TfL trial to see how cyclists react and, if successful, will be rolled out to 11 other junctions in London.

The extra signals are positioned on both sides of the roundabout, at the points where Cycle Superhighway 2 enters the junction. There are three sets on each side, two at the front and one further back to control the "early start" for cyclists entering via the filter lane. All the miniature lights do is repeat the signal atop the pole above them, they're nothing particularly special, except for the hope that cyclists will see them more clearly and react appropriately.

And that wasn't all that was unusual at Bow Roundabout during Monday's rush hour. The police were out in force, standing in all sorts of places around the junction, along with a lot of the contractors who've been responsible for installing the lights in the first place. Also present was at least one TV news cameraman, his big lens poised to film cyclists whizzing round the blue stripe. No misbehaviour or red-light-jumping ensued. But these were entirely atypical conditions, with every rider enduring the beady eyes of scrutiny, so not the best time to determine whether the lights were having the intended effect.

So I went back during the evening rush hour, after every scrutineer had disappeared, to carry out three small experiments of my own. They're entirely unscientific too, based on ridiculously tiny sample sizes, so should in no way be taken as indicative of how cyclists' behaviour might have changed. But that won't stop us jumping to conclusions, right?

Experiment 1: Do westbound cyclists obey the lights?
Unfortunately this experiment has a sample size of only one, because there aren't many westbound commuters during the evening rush hour. But down Stratford High Street he came, resplendent in professional pink hi-vis jacket, so I had high hopes. The first low-level cycle light was green, so through he sailed, while the traffic queued alongside patiently waited. But the 'cycle early start' design dictates that at least one of the pair of lights is always red, if not the first then the second. So the next low-level cycle light was red, because the main lights were red, to prevent anyone from entering the junction prematurely. Success - this cyclist duly stopped and paused at the red light. One down for the new system, I thought. Except then he spotted a gap in the traffic, a whopping great gap to be fair, and off he went. A slow burst at first, then more quickly, and across to the safety of the segregated blue lane before the next lorry came roaring round the roundabout.
Conclusion: No, he didn't obey the lights. Westbound cyclists still jump the lights when it suits.

Experiment 2: Do eastbound cyclists obey the lights?
This experiment has a sample size of three, because there are more eastbound  than westbound cyclists in the evening peak. Cyclist number one acted much as their westbound counterpart had done, cycling through the first green signal as intended, than failing to pause for the regulation amount of time at the second red. Cyclist number two was perfectly behaved, filtering into the early start zone and then waiting for the main lights to turn green before proceeding, safely ahead of the following traffic. With the scores level at 50-50, along came cyclist number three. This time the low-level light in the filter lane was red, signalling for cyclists to stop while the main body of traffic entered the roundabout. Cyclist number three wasn't having that, he rode straight through at speed and up to the second set of lights. These were on the turn and had just switched from green to red, signalling that now was the time for everyone to stop. And this message was totally ignored too. He zoomed on, with no attempt to brake, to cross the roundabout before the next pulse of traffic arrived. Again all was carefully judged, and at no time did any collision look possible, but just one left-turning truck could have caused a very different outcome.
Conclusion: No, only a minority obeyed the lights. Many eastbound cyclists still jump the lights when it suits.

Experiment 3: Do eastbound cyclists take advantage of the updated infrastructure at the Bow Roundabout?
This experiment has a sample size of twenty, which is almost scientific. That's ten consecutive cyclists near the start of the evening rush hour, plus ten consecutive cyclists near the end. I watched them approach from Bow Road and checked whether they rode down to the roundabout or whether instead they took the flyover. It's not necessarily easy to get to the Bow Flyover on a bike, you have to pull out into the traffic and cross a couple of lanes to get there. But thirteen of my twenty cyclists did this, speeding across and up and over the flyover, leaving just seven to follow the approved route down to the Bow Roundabout. I was surprised how unpopular the blue stripe was, but no, the majority of eastbound cyclists shunned all the improvements and chose to bypass over the top instead. Most won't have realised that the low level cycle lights had been switched on, it being Day One, and there being no signs to this effect. But a few new lights don't really make a material difference to cycle safety, so I'd expect most cyclists to continue to shun the junction despite all the trumpeted tweaks that TfL have made.
Conclusion: No, two-thirds avoid the roundabout. Most eastbound cyclists choose the flyover instead.

It strikes me that these new low level lights aren't really about cycle safety, because all they do is reinforce existing signals. Instead they're about trying to get cyclists to stop, and to use the cycle early start in the way the engineers intended. What's been created at the Bow Roundabout is a junction that's "always red" for cyclists, and an over-complex system that many riding through either fail to understand or choose to ignore. Regular cyclists at Bow have already learnt a series of bad habits, or chosen to bypass the set-up altogether, with the low level lights merely a cosmetic tweak that makes it look like something has been done. I fear that the Bow Roundabout is a poor place to trial the country's first set of low level lights, given that the existing set-up is already over-complicated, and they'd have been better off installed somewhere that bad behaviour hadn't already set in. Although they may look like an improvement, I doubt they'll make this killer junction any safer.


<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>


click to return to the main page


...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
life viewed from london e3

email    twitter    G+

my flickr photostream

What's on this weekend?
Sunday 2nd October (8.30-6.30)
Thames Barrier Closure
Annual all-day test, peaking around high tide at 3pm.

twenty blogs
853
arseblog
ian visits
londonist
scaryduck
blue witch
city metric
the great wen
onionbagblog
edith's streets
spitalfields life
linkmachinego
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
london museums
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
The DG Tour of Britain
Comment Value Hierarchy

read the archive
Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

diamond geezer 2015 index
diamond geezer 2014 index
diamond geezer 2013 index
diamond geezer 2012 index
diamond geezer 2011 index
diamond geezer 2010 index
diamond geezer 2009 index
diamond geezer 2008 index
diamond geezer 2007 index
diamond geezer 2006 index
diamond geezer 2005 index
diamond geezer 2004 index
diamond geezer 2003 index
diamond geezer 2002 index

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
metro-land
capital ring
river fleet
piccadilly
bakerloo

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
boredom
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters
iceland

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
thunderbirds
routemaster
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
amsterdam
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
typewriters
doctor who
coronation
comments
blue peter
matchgirls
hurricanes
buzzwords
brookside
monopoly
peter pan
starbucks
feng shui
leap year
manbags
penelope
bbc three
vision on
piccadilly
meridian
concorde
wembley
islington
ID cards
bedtime
freeview
beckton
blogads
eclipses
letraset
arsenal
sitcoms
gherkin
calories
everest
muffins
sudoku
camilla
london
ceefax
robbie
becks
dome
BBC2
paris
lotto
118
itv