diamond geezer

 Sunday, April 26, 2020

This is a new bike lane on Ruckholt Road at the northern tip of the Olympic Park.

A bike lane entirely blocked by a bus shelter and a litter bin.
This is not great.

It's part of a major upgrade to improve cycle provision at the junction with Temple Mills Lane, immediately outside Spitalfields Market. The rest of Ruckholt Road between here and Leyton was upgraded five years ago, but this junction didn't meet expectations so Waltham Forest council agreed to improve it. They haven't quite.

Previously an unsegregated cycle lane skirted the bus stop along the dual carriageway, then faded away at the traffic lights. Now a proper segregated lane hops up onto the pavement around an enlarged bus stop and continues safely over the railway bridge. It ought to be a big improvement, apart from the fact the cycle lane is closed because it careers through a bus shelter.

Obviously this is not deliberate. The bus shelter is supposed to be closer to the kerb but hasn't yet been moved from its original position. An extra swathe of pavement has been added where the buses used to stop, and a fresh rectangular area is plainly visible where the bus shelter is due to go. The bus stop pole should also be here, not to mention the big litter bin, but until someone relocates them passing cyclists are being forced to swerve off in front of the bus shelter instead.

It looks like the workers revamping the junction got sent home before they'd finished. One piece of evidence for this is a sign attached to a lamppost which suggests that five months of roadworks were scheduled to end on the Friday after lockdown started. Another piece of evidence is this as-yet unfinished half-a-bicycle painted where the new cycle lane meets the old.

I suspect that moving the bus shelter was one of the last things the workforce were supposed to do, and one day they'll come back and shift it. Let's hope they do, because what they've left behind is ludicrous.

Update: It seems Waltham Forest finished their works in early March... but they don't move bus shelters, that's TfL's responsibility, hence the embarrassingly uncoordinated outcome.

Proper cyclists will have opinions about the remainder of the new infrastructure. They may, for example, be impressed that bikes and vehicles are now kept substantially apart. They may be pleased that the absence of an Advanced Stop Line is no longer an issue because cyclists now have their own separate lane. They may be confused, and perhaps a little perturbed, by the way the eastbound lane splits either side of a filter lane used by vans and large trucks entering Spitalfields Market.

They may also be disappointed by the way the westbound cycle lane simply peters out and merges with the pavement, forcing cyclists and pedestrians to share the same space all the way to the A12. I was particularly disappointed because it's made social distancing much harder, not that this was in the planners' minds when they devised the layout. Much of the central reservation along this stretch is really wide, so the road's breadth could have been carved up much more practically.

At least the cycle lane doesn't pass through the bus shelter this time... but only because there isn't a cycle lane, leaving cyclists to negotiate their way through the queue of waiting passengers instead.

But as a pedestrian the chief thing I've noticed is that all the traffic islands have vanished. Previously crossing either Ruckholt Road or Temple Mills Lane required three presses of a button, thanks to an archipelago of small islands designed to permit filtering traffic.

Those islands have now been removed and what remains is a vast black tarmac expanse, in each case crossable in one step only. You might think that'd be good, and surely quicker than having to cross in three stages with all the additional waiting required. But in reality the traffic on Temple Mills Lane was normally light enough that no waiting was required, meaning I could normally nip across using each island as a stepping stone. Now the gap is so wide it's best not risked in one go, and it can be quite a wait before the 'green man' phase finally comes round.

I've noticed this elsewhere, that the addition of a segregated cycle lane often means the removal of a traffic island. Improving safety for those on two wheels can sometimes leave those on foot with a much wider gap to cross - now forced to wait for the lights to change because there's no longer a safe refuge in the centre. It's not cyclists' fault, merely a consequence of limited road space, but it's not a development I enjoy.

It's still much better than a cycle lane ploughing through a bus shelter, though. Come back soon and fix it, please.

Update from TfL's Senior Press Officer: "Just to let you know that we are keen to work with Waltham Forest council to get the shelter moved as soon as possible – however, all TfL-funded construction sites are currently paused in support of social distancing. As soon as restrictions are lifted and staff return to work, we will progress the opening of the cycle lane with our borough partners."

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