diamond geezer

 Thursday, October 02, 2014

Last week TfL launched a consultation on upgrading Cycle Superhighway 2 between Bow and Aldgate. Yesterday they finally got round to releasing data on how it will impact other road users. That's peculiar timing, especially given that half of CS2's four public consultation events have already taken place. Why the delay? Perhaps TfL held back because backroom staff couldn't churn out the numbers in time, or perhaps they delayed things deliberately to hide some nasty surprises in the figures. Let's investigate...

Smallprint: The datasheet is here. Before we dive in, you should note the following. TfL have compared journey times now with journey times two years hence, and assumed that traffic volumes in 2016 will remain at current levels. They've analysed road journeys to the nearest second, but I've rounded times to the nearest half minute to aid clarity. TfL's data considers only the morning and evening rush hours, because that's when the roads are at their busiest. They've taken into consideration 20 traffic upgrade schemes elsewhere in London which might have additional impact along CS2. And they've assumed the introduction of enhanced traffic signal phasing, as was used for Olympic traffic management.

We'll start with eastbound journeys from Aldgate to the Bow Roundabout. Eastbound traffic is busiest in the evening, and runs against the general flow in the morning. How long do these journeys take now, and how long will they take in 2016 after CS2 is upgraded?

CS2Average eastbound travel times
(Aldgate to Bow)
Morning peakEvening peak
20142016change20142016change
Cyclist16m17m+1m18m17m-1m
No. 25 bus22m23½m+1½m24½m25m+½m
Car driver11½m12m+½m13m13½m+½m

Interesting. Cyclists won't see much of a change in journey time, with speeds slightly slower in the morning peak and slightly faster in the evening. The real benefit for those on bikes isn't in getting from A to B more quickly, it's in getting there more safely. Buses will run a little slower as a result of the carriageway changes, but only by a minute or two, which the average passenger may not notice. And journeys by car will barely be affected at all, running only fractionally slower even at the busiest times. No road user faces a change in journey time greater than 7%. That's not too bad is it?

But things are different going the other way, that's from Bow to Aldgate. This is the direction that's busiest in the morning, and against the flow in the evening.

CS2Average westbound travel times
(Bow to Aldgate)
Morning peakEvening peak
20142016change20142016change
Cyclist22m19m-3m22m19m-3m
No. 25 bus26m27½m+1½m28m29½m+1½m
Car driver14½m21½m+7m15m18m+3m

In very good news, come 2016 westbound cyclists will be able to travel along the Bow, Mile End and Whitechapel Roads faster than they do now. That's a full three minutes faster from one end to the other, no matter what the time of day. The number 25 bus will take an extra minute and a half, again no matter what the time of day. But oh dear, things will be much worse for car drivers. They face a mammoth 50% increase in journey time in the morning rush hour, up from 14 minutes to 21, and a 20% increase in the evening. That's a highly significant slowdown, the equivalent of spending one extra day on the road each year, deliberately and directly caused by upgrading three miles of cycling infrastructure. Car drivers, truck drivers and taxi drivers aren't going to be happy.

Something else significant changes westbound in the morning peak, and that's the fastest form of transport. Normally cars are faster than bikes, indeed if you check all the other scenarios above they still are. But for those commuting into the City in the morning, by 2016 cycling will be quicker than driving your car. If anything's going to encourage modal shift from four wheels to two, it's the realisation that bike journeys might be both safer and faster.

Meanwhile, tucked away at the foot of TfL's CS2 datasheet are some figures about how pedestrians will be affected. Here the impact comes from the rephasing of traffic lights, and subsequent changes in how long it takes to cross a road. Four existing pedestrian crossings will change from staggered two-part crossings to straight-across, and this'll speed things up for those on foot. But at the six typical junctions sampled in TfL's data, pedestrians will have a lot more waiting around to do.

CS2Average pedestrian waiting times
Morning peakEvening peak
20142016change20142016change
Aldgate Gyratory43s64s+21s42s61s+21s
Whitechapel station48s72s+24s48s70s+22s
Cambridge Heath Rd54s68s+14s54s69s+15s
Stepney Green64s74s+10s64s77s+13s
Mile End station66s83s+17s57s73s+16s
Bow Rd/Fairfield Rd73s98s+25s73s98s+25s

It seems pedestrians are the biggest losers. They're going to have to wait longer at junctions all along CS2, on average 10 to 25 seconds longer, as the traffic lights are rephased in favour of cyclists. TfL's plans require safe passage for bikes, which often means additional cycle-only phases and the introduction of early start lights. And this means that traffic lights will take longer to change, and so average waiting times will increase dramatically, by anything from 15% to 50%. I am not happy about this.

The worst figures are for my local road junction on the corner of Bow Road and Fairfield Road. At present pedestrians have to spend an average of 1 minute 13 seconds waiting for the green man, but in 2016 that increases to 1 minute 38 seconds. The extra 25 second delay is because two new right turns are being created for cyclists, which sounds great, but requires specific bike-only time in the traffic light cycle. What's more, relatively few cyclists use Fairfield Road at present, so this extra time may be entirely redundant for most of the day. More agile pedestrians are unlikely to hang around on the pavement for nearly two minutes, they'll carry on dashing across gaps in the traffic like they do now. But those of us on foot are clearly bottom of the heap in the CS2 upgrade, like it or lump it.

Have you responded to the CS2 upgrade consultation yet? If you're a cyclist, it's your chance to say how much you approve. But if you drive into the City in the morning, or if you're a lowly pedestrian, you may have harsher words. Speak now to prevent TfL wasting your time in 2016. Or buy a bike.


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