diamond geezer

 Thursday, September 04, 2014

Yesterday TfL launched a consultation about two new cycle superhighways, one east-west and the other north-south. Here's what they have to say about one of those routes.
"Transport for London (TfL), in close consultation with its partners City of London and City of Westminster, is proposing a continuous, largely segregated cycle route between Tower Hill and Acton. The East-West Cycle Superhighway would provide a clear and convenient route for cyclists, physically separated from other vehicles. We would create space for the new cycle route by reallocating road space from other traffic and changing the operation of some junctions."
This is impressive stuff, finally giving cyclists the road space they deserve through the centre of London. A properly separated lane might actually entice large numbers of other travellers onto two wheels, in a way no previous infrastructure project has.
"The new Superhighway would start at Tower Hill, where it would connect to the existing Barclays Cycle Superhighway Route 3 (CS3), which runs east to Canary Wharf and Barking. From Tower Hill, the new route would run along Lower and Upper Thames Street, Victoria Embankment, across Parliament Square, through St James’s Park, Green Park and Hyde Park, and over the Westway flyover from Westbourne Bridge to Wood Lane. From there, it would continue along the A40 Western Avenue as far as Horn Lane, Acton."
It's interesting that the new Superhighway will link to CS3, which is generally deemed a success, and not to CS2 which is still wildly substandard along much of its length. But the new proposals owe much to the CS2 extension along Stratford High Street, completed in autumn last year, which brought early start junctions and bus stop bypasses to our streets. It also pioneered the acquisition of traffic lanes for bikes, reducing a six lane highway to four, and similar plans are now scheduled for the Embankment. Here's an artist's impression.

The Embankment's a very clever choice for a cycle superhighway, firstly because it has no bus routes, so TfL aren't taking capacity away from their own services. And secondly there are no road junctions on the riverward side, other than the occasional bridge, which removes all those nasty conflict situations that sometimes kill people. On the downside, look, there are now only three lanes of traffic, still two running west but just one to the east. This has the potential to slow down vehicles and create tailbacks at busy times, which could then cause repercussions on neighbouring streets. TfL admit as such...
"Our latest analysis shows the proposals would mean longer journey times for motorists and bus, coach and taxi passengers along most of the route, both during construction and once complete. There would also be longer journey times for users of many of the roads approaching the proposed route and longer waits for pedestrians at some signalised crossings."
Essentially cyclists benefit greatly, and all other road users take a hit. There'll be plenty of times of day when disruption is minimal, but your drive, your bus journey and even your power-walk are likely to take longer. And lane shrinkage isn't limited to the Embankment. It'll happen north-south on Farringdon Street and Blackfriars Road too, and they're even threatening to shut one lane on the elevated A40 Westway! Thanks to the CS2 extension there are already times on Stratford High Street when I avoid taking the bus home to Bow because the jams between Westfield and the Bow Roundabout are far worse than before. Now more central parts of London will get to experience what providing proper facilities for cycling really means.
"Further analysis of the traffic impacts of the scheme is being undertaken. A summary of this analysis will be available on this website during the consultation period."
It's worth taking a look at the detailed plans for various sections of the new routes, where TfL have been comprehensive in trying optimise each section as best they can. This means closing and shifting bus stops, banning certain right turns, paving over parking spaces, even removing parking for the disabled in some places. It would be all too easy to reply to TfL's consultation with a general "Wow, yes, this is precisely what cycling in the capital's been waiting for", whereas what's really required is a forensic analysis of the new superhighway's path, junction by junction. Iron out the wrinkles at this stage and more than simply bikes might benefit.
"We continue to work with businesses and freight operators to minimise the impact of these proposals on their operations. If your home or workplace is on or near the proposed route, please let us know if the proposals could affect your deliveries, collections and servicing. We would encourage you to discuss the proposals with companies undertaking these operations."
Somewhere at TfL HQ a team is busy drawing up similar plans for the road outside my house. They're desperate to upgrade CS2 from an embarrassing blue stripe to something mostly-segregated, and they'll be announcing their intentions some time in the next few months. I hope they're creating something marvellous, but I worry they might be taking liberties with the footpath outside my front door, or relocating my local bus stop, or increasing the exhaust fumes I breathe in by restricting space for road traffic. Time will tell.

In the meantime, do check the east-west and north-south Cycle Superhighway plans carefully, providing constructive feedback as appropriate. Because this consultation isn't about giving cyclists due priority - that battle's finally been won - the key thing now is getting the details right.

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