TfL don't build Cycle Superhighways any more, they build 'Cycleways'.
Yesterday they launched a consultation for a Cycleway linking Hackney and the Isle of Dogs through neighbourhoods including Victoria Park, Mile End and Limehouse. Note that Cycleways aren't just for cyclists, they also advance improvements for people walking. Or that's the plan.
It's a lot less great if you drive, and might well slow your journey if you travel by bus.
The new 7½km Cycleway will eventually run from Quietway 2 to the Greenwich Foot Tunnel. 5½km of that will be along segregated cycle lanes. The first consultation only covers 3½km. No completion date has been suggested. Don't expect to be riding any of this soon.
The consultation splits the affected route into eleven sections, each with detailed maps showing what'll be added, what needs to be ripped out and all the things that drivers won't be allowed to do any more. It's very comprehensive, indeed almost overwhelmingly so for any member of the public trying to take it all in. The new buzzphrase is "junction efficiency improvements", which is shorthand for "we think this'll work better for our favoured road users."
I don't cycle, not least because nobody's yet built a cycle route in east London I'd feel safe using. But that hasn't stopped me from walking the route, and taking a few photos, and getting exceptionally wet in the process.
This section isn't so much superhighway as quietway, with the route following low-trafficked backstreets. You couldn't squeeze two segregated lanes into this part of South Hackney even if you wanted to. Expect a new signalled crossing on Well Street, several "cycle-friendly road humps" (assuming any such thing exists) and a couple of planters in place of the barrier in my photo. Residents of Gore Road, a very quiet street facing Victoria Park, will lose a few parking bays to provide 'passing places' for cyclists. Not very much of TfL's Healthy Streets budget will be spent here.
But this is dramatic. A single road cuts across Victoria Park, separating the smaller western chunk from the larger eastern bulk. TfL are proposing to close this road between 7am and 7pm to all traffic except buses, cycles and taxis. It's brilliant news for cyclists, and would also help to knit together the two halves of Victoria Park. But it seriously inconveniences other drivers, there being no other north-south route for an entire kilometre to either side, and will surely end up diverting vehicles on longer journeys via local roads. Canals and parkland form a significant barrier between the E3 and E8 postcodes, and this Cycleway proposal only increases that severance.
The next kilometre, from Victoria Park across Roman Road to Mile End, is on hold. TfL and Tower Hamlets council are running a separate initiative in Bow called Liveable Neighbourhoods, and this needs to progress further before plans for the Cycleway can be confirmed. I actually live in the Liveable Neighbourhood concerned and have had one vague flyer about maybe turning up to some events (which I haven't done). From what I read they might be planning to make Roman Road one-way, and planting some trees and extending some pavements, and what happens along Grove Road is just another mysterious aspect of all that. It pays to engage, else who knows what you might end up with?
Section 4: Mile End Road Junction with Burdett Road and Grove Road
Here we go again. This major road junction by Mile End station was tweaked for Cycle Superhighway 2, then tweaked more seriously when CS2 was upgraded, and now TfL's contractors are going to have another go. Last time they enraged local drivers by banning right turns from Mile End Road into Burdett Road and from Burdett Road into Mile End Road. This time they intend to reinstate the latter but ban left turns from Mile End Road into Burdett Road instead. It feels like the planners are doing this on a whim, banning anything which gets in the way of "junction efficiency" and forcing local traffic onto awkward diversions. This part of Tower Hamlets has relatively few main roads, and banning turns from one into another really doesn't help. Fabulous for cyclists, though.
For bus passengers it's a mixed bag, as TfL's traffic modelling summary suggests. Journeys on route 277 (parallel to the new Cycleway) could be over three minutes faster. Routes 8, D6 and D7 are also winners. But route 25 (perpendicular to the new Cycleway) could be 1-2 minutes slower in both directions in the evening peak... on top of a 1-2 minute delay when CS2 was upgraded, and further minutes lost between Bow and Stratford when its bus lanes were handed over to cyclists instead. No wonder route 25 is haemorrhaging passengers.
This is the Cycleway's flagship section, a proper segregated cycle lane extending all the way from Mile End to Limehouse. As far as Bow Common Lane it'll be on both sides of the road, then switches to one side for the rest of the way. Some fairly dramatic interventions are planned, including repositioning a bus stop across a former road junction, closing off various sidestreets and removing several parking spaces. Bus stops are being shifted to where bus stop bypasses can most easily be accommodated, which for some passengers will mean an extra 60m walk. Pedestrians will find it easier to cross the road at places where there are crossings, and harder where there aren't. And yet again the junction efficiency mantra is king, which is bad news for traffic used to turning left into, or left out of, St Paul's Way. For everyone other than cyclists it's mixed. For cyclists it looks very good indeed.
This enormous road junction is about to get The Treatment. The Cycleway will cross to one side of the yellow box, controlled by separate traffic lights, making the junction far less hairy to negotiate. Street furniture and traffic islands will also have to be shifted around, which means several months of roadworks while contractors try to match the lines and shapes that planners have drawn on their maps. And another right turn is being banned to make the junction layout more efficient. "Do any buses go that way?" "No." "Great, let's ban it."
Finally, for now, the new Cycleway will extend down one side of West India Dock Road until it meets up with Cycle Superhighway 3. Another bus stop is shifting by 60m because it has to. Limehouse Police Station is losing some parking spaces out front after being hemmed in behind a segregated lane. Near Westferry station the flow of eastbound traffic is being reduced from two lanes to one. The whole thing is a series of compromises to squeeze in as safe a Cycleway as possible, with repercussions for all other road users. What we don't yet know is how the remainder of the route down the Isle of Dogs will pan out, although intriguingly it looks like northbound cyclists will follow completely different roads to those heading south.
The Cycleway consultation is underway until June 21st. Four drop-in events are planned. Online responses are encouraged. And this is my usual exhortation to get involved and have your say to try to make sure things you like happen and things you don't like don't. I still shake my head at certain compromises along CS2, some outside my front door, and wish I'd shouted louder. But then I'm not a cyclist.