diamond geezer

 Thursday, July 21, 2011

Cycle Superhighway 2: Bow - Aldgate

Cycle Superhighway 2 isn't a joined-up blue line. It doesn't extend the full 1km length of Bow Road, but breaks in several places. At most road junctions, no problem, the blue line's been painted straight across. But reach a bus stop, or a parking space, or a pedestrian crossing, and you're briefly on your own. Or not so briefly...

iii) CS2: Bow Church station bus stop - eastbound
Who'd have guessed that the true enemy of the Superhighway cyclist isn't the car, it's the bus. And in particular, the bus stop. As soon as CS2 reaches a bus stop it stops, pauses, then picks up again on the opposite side as if nothing had happened. That's because bus stops are sometimes full of buses, and riding a bike through a bus isn't recommended. Instead, the "men who paint the blue stripe on the road" have an alternative means of alert. They iron a big rectangular stencil onto the road alongside the bus stop as a warning to drivers that there might be cyclists overtaking ahead. These big blue 'CS2's indicate the existence of a Cycle Superfuzzyway - a stretch of road where quite frankly there could be bikes anywhere. As a cyclist, you really don't want to meet a bus in a bus stop, because you're going to be forced to pull out to ride around it. Check behind you, make sure no car is closing fast, and filter yourself into the outer lane of traffic. But even a bus stop without a bus isn't as safe as you might think. There's never a blue strip painted through a bus stop, remember, so you're on your own if you stick close to the kerb. Thank goodness bus stops are short, eh?

Except on Bow Road the bus stops aren't short. Seven years ago they were extended to accommodate bendy buses, a really quite dramatic increase in size. Each bus stop became long enough for at least two bendies to arrive simultaneously which, when they're each 18 metres long, makes for a whacking great length. Here's the bus stop opposite Bow Road station, for example [photo]. I didn't have a tape measure with me so I paced it out, and I counted 55 paces end to end. Which means the Cycle Superhighway stops for 50m or so, purely to give a queue of bendy buses somewhere to stop. Except, as you'll remember, Bow Road doesn't have bendy buses any more. Boris removed them in late June to be replaced by much shorter double deckers. But when Bow Road was resurfaced at great expense back in May, in readiness for CS2, workmen insisted on re-laying double-bendy-sized bus stops. They should have shrunk them, in readiness for the forthcoming years of normal double decker traffic. But instead they stuck with supersize, needed for a few weeks only, and left us with an unnecessary anachronism. And this matters because CS2 has bus-stop-sized holes, and these bus-stop sized holes are at least twice as long as they need to be. Good luck cyclists, you're on your own. Verdict? Fail.

iv) CS2: Bow Road (near Payne Road) - parking space
The blue Superhighway is also a red route. Vehicles aren't permitted to pull over, let alone park, anywhere along the entire road from Aldgate to Bow. That's good news if you're a cyclist, because parked cars are one of the worst everyday obstacles to have to negotiate around. Drivers aren't completely banished, because there are a few off-road parking bays along Bow Road if you know where to look. There's a new one by St Clements Hospital and another outside the Bow Bells pub, specially laid during CS2 works to provide additional hardstanding. And then there are the on-road parking slots, delimited by dotted red lines, where parking is permitted for a limited period. That's 10am to 4pm, for no more than 20 minutes, or as long as you like on a Sunday. And the bad news is that Cycle Superhighways pass straight through these parking spaces. There you are hurtling along the bike-only blue strip, and the blue strip suddenly disappears under a parked car [photo]. If this were a bus stop the blue line would pause and there'd be a warning stencil in another lane. But parking spaces, for some reason, are treated differently. Beware of four-wheeled blockages outside the betting shop, and the taxicab firm, and the corner shop, and the church... as your zigzag ride along Bow Road continues. Verdict? Fail.

v) CS2: Coborn Road toucan crossing

You know what a toucan crossing is - like a pelican crossing but jointly for pedestrians and cyclists. As part of the funded works for CS2, one of Bow Road's many pelican crossings has been converted to a toucan. But I cannot for the life of me work out why this particular pelican has been selected. I can imagine a cyclist might want to wheel their bike across the busy street elsewhere, say at the bottom of Fairfield Road. But why it might be necessary outside the Tesco Express near Coborn Road, heaven only knows. And yet workmen have gone to ridiculous lengths to install additional features for the benefit of road-crossing bikes, which surely no sensible adult would ever use [photo]. Just before the toucan crossing, heading west, a brief blue on-ramp has been laid allowing cyclists to ride up onto the pavement. Ten metres later they're expected to wait and cross at the crossing, which is in two single-carriageway halves. And then they're invited to ride along the pavement and down the off-ramp on the other side... back in the same direction from which they came! Don't try biking the toucan eastbound, however - there may be an off-ramp but there isn't an on. And don't think of riding any further on the pavement. A tiny "no cycling" sign has been implanted on a bollard, backed with a "shared pavement for pedestrians and bikes" sign on the reverse. What? Why? How? Any cyclist who needs to cross Bow Road on a bike is surely going to pull into the central reservation and turn right, not hike tortuously across a special set of lights. It's as if some transport manager in an ivory tower has devised a system for toucan-crossing cyclists, without considering that nobody on the ground will understand it, let alone adhere to it. Construction of this folly took 32 days. Verdict? Pointless.

(more tomorrow) (more yesterday)

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