diamond geezer

 Thursday, October 31, 2013

Today sees the opening of the extension to Cycle Superhighway 2 along Stratford High Street. This is the mile between the Bow Roundabout and Stratford Town Centre, the stretch past the Olympic Park, untouched when CS2 was opened in 2011. Most of this road is a three lane dual carriageway, so it's been relatively easy to divide off one lane for the exclusive use of cyclists, creating a segregated (and hopefully safe) space for riding along. I've been watching the increasingly frenetic construction over the last few weeks as TfL's contractors have tried desperately to complete the work by today's deadline. You couldn't have ridden along the blue stripe yesterday - not all the paint was down, and none of the signs were up. But today TfL should be able to boast about a slice of cycling infrastructure that London can be proud of, which makes a change. I've uploaded eight photos of what CS2x looked like last weekend to Flickr, to give you a flavour of what the finished article will be like. And I promise I'll come back and blog properly once it's up and running, when its triumphs and inadequacies will be a little clearer.

But a mile of super Superhighway only gets you so far. To reach the new extension, or to continue from it, cyclists still need to negotiate the notorious Bow Roundabout and pass along the original Cycle Superhighway 2. And this is still rubbish, ambiguous, inadequate, still little more than a strip of blue paint along the road. It's exciting, then, that TfL have finally decided to improve this too. According to board papers published yesterday, "on 31 October we held a media event launching the extension and confirmed our intention to upgrade the remainder of the route." There's no detail as to what "upgrade" actually means, whether that's further tweaks or full segregation - perhaps a journalist at the press launch would like to ask. But I thought I'd show you why an upgrade to CS2 is so desperately necessary, and why the original plans were so ill-thought-through, using my local stretch as an example.

All of the following photos were taken along the last 300m of Cycle Superhighway 2, that's along Bow Road approaching the Bow Roundabout.

What you can see here are two lanes of traffic heading east. Rather than carving out separate cycling space, instead CS2 is nothing but a stripe of blue paint covering the left hand side of the left hand lane. As a cyclist you are essentially sharing your Superhighway with any other road vehicle that passes this way, and if that's a bus or a lorry then your way is entirely blocked. Much of Bow Road is inadequately painted like this. Not so super.

Here we are beyond the pedestrian crossing and approaching St Mary's church. There are two bus stops here, one almost immediately after the other, so the blue paint of CS2 disappears. Instead cyclists are nudged out into the main body of the traffic, at both bus stops, via a big blue rectangle that provides no security at all. But look carefully and there's also a tiny strip of blue inbetween the two bus stops, which must be all of five metres long, nudging you back into the kerbside again. This is no way to guide cyclists safely forward. Not so super.

This photo was taken at the far end of the second bus stop. See how the blue CS2 logo has been positioned so as to divert cyclists into the middle lane of traffic? From this position it would surely be simple to continue straight ahead, across the 'Keep Clear' notice, to enter the left hand lane of the flyover. Indeed that's what the majority of cyclists do, they ride up onto the flyover to avoid having to negotiate the roundabout because they think it's safer that way. I'd agree. But instead the blue stripe reappears along the left hand kerb, delivering you inexorably towards an entirely inadequate road junction. Not so super.

I have two things to show you here. Firstly that's Brian Dorling's ghost bike, or the remains of it, reminding us of his fatal accident a few yards ahead at the Bow Roundabout two years ago. And secondly there's a car parked in the Cycle Superhighway, perfectly legally, blocking passage. This is an official parking bay, operational for loading and unloading outside peak hours, and freely available for parking on Sundays. As a local resident I'm very pleased to have such facilities available. As a cyclist, however, the idea of a parking space on a Superhighway is entirely bonkers. Not so super.

This is the entrance to the segregated cycle lane added at the Bow Roundabout following Brian Dorling's death. Previously CS2 had been nothing more than half a lane painted blue, which was ludicrous this close to the roundabout because it was usually obstructed by queueing traffic. The separate lane seems much more sensible, except it starts only a few metres after a bus stop so (as seen here) can be equally impossible to access. From what I've seen there's a similar schoolboy error on the opposite side of the roundabout, on the new westbound extension, where access to the Bow Flyover bus stop bypass can be blocked by a queue of vehicles. They never learn. Not so super.

This is a shot taken in the opposite direction to that seen above, but taken on a quieter day. It shows TfL's innovative "cycle early start lights" - a two stage system for filtering cyclists ahead of other vehicles so that they can get away in relative safety. I've blogged about this before and how it doesn't quite work in the way TfL had hoped. Cyclists don't always realise that they have to obey two separate sets of lights, and often sail through the second on red, either deliberately or through ignorance. Cars don't always stop where they should either, and no longer get quite so long to pass through the lights on green, which has created longer queues of cars and buses on Bow Road. A good try, TfL, but this is no perfect solution. Not so super.

I show you this photo to illustrate CS2's poor construction values. This isn't even the original not-very-good infrastructure at the Bow Roundabout, it's a 2012 "improvement". When the roadway was remodelled an awkward indentation was created which fills with water after heavy rain. There is a drain which is located to the left where the white stripe breaks, but the surface slopes the wrong way leaving cyclists to splash through a big puddle as they exit their segregated lane. If this section of CS2 ever gets a second makeover, hopefully someone'll fix it. In the meantime it's not so super.

And finally, this is the point where Cycle Superhighway 2 ends, and where (on the opposite side of the roundabout) the new extension begins. It's also the point where Brian Dorling died, crushed by a tipper truck turning left onto the A12. TfL have accidentally discovered the perfect solution to ensure this never happens again - they've closed the slip road. This is for four months while Crossrail undertake work on a new tunnel entrance, so now only traffic for McDonalds and some local flats turns left here. It's brilliant, and completely removes the need to have a "cycle early start" facility at all. Indeed most cyclists have deduced that it's now perfectly safe to jump the lights, so generally do, and are in for a shock come December when the traffic thunders back.

It takes just one minute to cycle down the 300m of Cycle Superhighway 2 I've illustrated above. One minute of roadway that's generally unfit for purpose, but which was lauded as a great leap forward by TfL just two years ago. When the CS2 extension is officially opened later today, and TfL announce that they now intend to upgrade the remainder of the route, please raise a cheer. I don't believe it's going to be easy to make Bow Road as safe for cyclists as Stratford High Street. But until someone comes up with a decent plan, the majority of Cycle Superhighway 2 remains not so super.

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