diamond geezer

 Thursday, May 26, 2011

When I heard that Bow Road was getting a Cycle Superhighway, I didn't ever guess quite how disruptive that would be. The roadworks began seven months ago and they still haven't finished. They're particularly bad at the moment, with the entire road leading up the the Flyover sealed off every evening for a week so that lots of big noisy machines can lay down a new road surface. That's fine, because a busy trunk road like the A11 needs resurfacing every now and then, plus we should get some safer cycle lanes out of it. I'll post more about the Cycle Superhighway and its associated joys/disasters when it's finally complete later in the summer. But there is one thing I want to get off my chest first. Because, as a mere pedestrian, one particular cycleway 'improvement' is trying to kill me.

Let me take you to the traffic lights at the foot of Fairfield Road. If you're driving out of town towards Stratford, it's the last turning left before the Bow roundabout. Above is a photo looking up Fairfield Road, showing the pedestrian crossing in its previous form. It's not a pelican or puffin or anything - it doesn't need to be. Crossing the left-hand-side pedestrians have to watch for traffic pulling in from Bow Road, which involves looking around a lot but isn't usually dangerous. Over on the right-hand-side the queueing traffic spends a long time at red, waiting patiently to pull out. Crossing this bit on foot can be a little more awkward, in case the lights turn green while you're mid-road. But that's OK, you just cast a look up at the single traffic light at the front and check it hasn't changed colour so you know it's OK to cross. That's how it was. And then the Cycle Superhighway came.
Construction Package 11a - Bow Road (Campbell Road to Bow Roundabout)
• New blue cycle surfacing and route logos
• Resurfacing work on the carriageway and bus stops
• New road markings
• Kerb realignments
• Footway improvements
• Relocation of signposts, traffic lights and other street furniture
Works are still underway, so the final blue stripe hasn't appeared yet, but workers have spent months rejigging the road in readiness for its arrival. They've dug up bits of pavement, moved lampposts and realigned kerbs. They've dug up some of the same bits of pavement again, and again, then again for good measure. And they've shifted around the traffic lights at the bottom of Fairfield Road too, presumably to make more room for some as-yet-unseen cycle feature. There's only one major change here, and that's the disappearance of the front traffic light. Drivers can still see two, but the third that we pedestrians used to rely on has disappeared and not been replaced. The crossing now passes in front of the traffic lights, not between them, rendering the red/green colour change invisible. Presumably that's an oversight, or whoever was redesigning the junction thought it wasn't important. But as a result I've nearly been run over twice in the last 24 hours. And I'm not best pleased.

I tried to cross Fairfield Road on my way home from work, and I thought the coast was clear. I got halfway across without incident, then reached the side where queueing traffic was waiting at red. It was still red wasn't it? I sort of assumed it was still red, although it was impossible to see any traffic light in any direction from where I was standing so this could only be a guess. I strode boldly into the road, only for the front car to suddenly start accelerating in my general direction. Red had flipped to green without me knowing, and only by speeding up my walk did I avoid a nasty close shave.

I tried to cross Fairfield Road later in the evening, after taking this photo, and I thought the coast was clear. I got halfway across without incident, then reached the side where no traffic was queueing at all. Must be safe, I thought. And then I noticed a car in the near distance driving steadily towards the junction. If the lights were at red, as I believed, then the car would slow to a halt and I'd be safe. But if the lights were green, as I feared, then the car would speed ahead to drive past and turn into Bow Road. I guessed wrong. The car carried on driving towards me, fairly fast, then slowed a little so as not to mow me down. The driver was no doubt wondering why some idiot pedestrian was crossing the road while the lights were at green. And I was wondering why some idiot traffic planner had ensured I could no longer tell whether the lights were green or not.

I don't expect you to be interested - this isn't your road, this isn't your life in greater danger. But in adapting my local streetscape for the benefit of cyclists, an unexpected consequence has been to make things less safe for pedestrians. I wonder how long it'll be before the first unnecessary accident occurs.

15th June update: Oh joy. The stalks for the permanent traffic lights have just gone in, and there's one up front where pedestrians should be able to see it. Looks like the attempt to kill us was only temporary. Once the lamps are finally installed, I'll be delighted to have called this one wrong.

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