De Beauvoir Improvements: A great opportunity – missed?

De Beauvoir Town has some of the loveliest streets in London.  Since the 1970s, half a dozen roads have been accessible to pedestrians and people on bikes – and blocked to rat-running drivers.  Now, residents have the chance to extend this area of safety and tranquility to cover almost all of De Beauvoir.  It’s not yet clear whether they will take it…


Lawford Road – Image: Chris Whippet

When planning for ‘Cycle Superhighway’ 1, Hackney Council and Transport for London decided not to tackle the A10 – the main North-South route through the borough, the road on which most shops and services are located, and the current main site of casualties for people on bikes.

Instead, the route was put along the existing ‘London Cylce Network’ alignment through De Beauvoir.  They may be safer than the A10, but these roads attract a lot of rat-running drivers, and certainly do not meet the criteria for a safe and desirable route on which ordinary people, aged 8-80, will willingly cycle.  Hackney Cycling Campaign and Hackney People on Bikes requested filtering to create a worthwhile route which met the needs of people who cycle, and who might in future.

Separately, a large number of residents organised themselves to petition their councillors calling for filtering.  These streets can be very busy with fast-moving drivers and are not fit for pleasant residential use.

The result from TfL and Hackney is an admirable and thorough plan to remove through traffic from the area.  Building on the existing excellent filters in the bottom left of the map below, this area would see through traffic only on the main roads along the edge, and through Englefield Road in the middle.

CS1 closures

While the money has come from TfL’s ‘Cycle Superhighway’ 1 pot, it is primarily a neighbourhood improvement project: cutting out through traffic, reducing noise, pollution and danger.  This is an area which has seen a number of crashes over the last ten years, shown below – a danger and an unpleasantness which local people now have the chance to avoid.

When I attended a Ward Forum on the topic of the closures, I was disappointed to find that many of those attending were hostile to the closures (they numbered perhaps thirty-five or forty, but made up in heat what they lacked in numbers).  While almost almost everyone seemed to recognise the negative effects of large number of outsiders driving through the area, many seemed minded to object to the proposals.  In a meeting which was at times exceptionally unpleasant as attendees shouted over one another, council officers (and me), a number of strange arguments were made: the dangers of people cycling were brought up, ‘Will the council put a police officer on the junction of Culford Road’; the undesirability of restricting rat-running drivers, ‘it’s better to have ten cars go down ten roads than down one’ and of course ‘road tax’.

There were many strong, positive voices too.  Local residents attended who had knocked on one another’s doors to gather support for the plan.  One lady noted that she was on crutches and wouldn’t be able to cycle, but we must do more for people who do – and that she can hardly get her car out of it’s parking place on Ardleigh Road owing to the weight of traffic.  Another lady noted that she was willing to be inconvenienced by a slightly longer route when she needed to drive, because it would be good for the area and for local people.

I very much hope that those in favour of these excellent proposals will make their voices heard too.  If you want to see a safer, nicer De Beauvoir, be a good citizen and respond to the consultation – you have until the 18th November.  All you have to do is click this link, choose ‘yes’ and write your name on the next page.  You can add a reason and additional details about yourself if you like.

There are two additional consultations for closures further up the ‘Superhighway’ route – please do support these too:Wordsworth Road Consultation
Broadwater Road Consultation

Silvertown Tunnel – the best TfL can offer?

If you invest £1000 in my business, the best thing I can offer you is learning.

21st century planning

The cost of small production lines and website development is so low that £1000 is best spent testing the water: make 100 T-shirts and a website, and see if they sell, rather than building a factory for millions only to find out your T-shirt design is unpopular, or out of fashion.  The idea that the currency of success is now learning – from a friend who once worked in tech startups – seems a very 21st century way of doing business.  There is another way to do business that remains popular though; with plans for Silvertown Tunnel, TfL are doing business in the style of the 1950s.

Silvertown: 1950s planning

1950s thinking – particularly around road design was to ‘predict and provide’:

Predict and provide

The earliest, and perhaps most destructive road transport policy in the UK, whereby traffic levels were forecast, and capacity provided to meet this forecast (University of Nottingham)

At Silvertown, TfL have predicted a massive growth in cross-river traffic by people who will want to drive.  Rather than seeking to provide alternatives, reduce that demand or prioritise those who actually need to drive there, they propose a tunnel:

The Silvertown Tunnel will reduce congestion at the Blackwall Tunnel, improve the resilience of the surrounding road network and support economic and population growth.  (All quotations are from this TfL page or linked documents, unless otherwise indicated).

Despite creating a new, quicker way to drive, TfL claim this won’t attract many additional drivers, in fact:

We estimate that by 2031, delays on the approach to the tunnel would be virtually eliminated.

This is in defiance of the experience of every major road-building scheme in Britain over a period of thirty years, which shows that ‘improving’ roads invariably induces more people to drive:

The average traffic flow on 151 improved roads was 10.4% higher than forecasts that omitted induced traffic and 16.4% higher than forecast on 85 alternative routes that improvements had been intended to relieve. In a dozen more detailed case studies the measured increase in traffic ranged from 9% to 44% in the short run and 20% to 178% in the longer run. This fitted in with other evidence on elasticities and aggregate data. The conclusion was:

 “An average road improvement, for which traffic growth due to all other factors is forecast correctly, will see an additional [i.e. induced] 10% of base traffic in the short term and 20% in the long term.”

(Taken from this post, which summarises this DfT report).

If Silvertown Tunnel is similar to every other major road scheme, it will increase traffic on the Greenwich Peninsula.

Note to TfL - you cannot build your way out of a traffic jam (source - Citylab)

Note to TfL – you cannot build your way out of a traffic jam (source – Citylab)

So, TfL’s other claims seem doubtful too:

The environmental impact of current traffic congestion on some of London’s most polluted roads would be reduced

The scheme would bring about an overall air quality improvement on the main approach routes to and from the Blackwall Tunnel,

TfL promises to charge for the tunnel, and for Blackwall, to alleviate the otherwise inevitable harm.

TfL proposes to use to manage traffic impacts arising from the Silvertown Tunnel is user charging, which would act to deter increases in demand and should therefore minimise adverse impacts (TfL)

A 21st century business proposal

What upsets me about this (apart from the waste of money, induced demand caused, additional pollution and general obtuseness of the approach) is that TfL’s approach does not offer us any learning.

Were we to charge for the crossing now, we could find out how many people actually need to drive across the Thames here.  Demand might be managed sufficiently to avoid the massive expense of a new bridge. Pollution might be reduced in the area.

That’s what happened when Stockholm did something similar, as beautifully summarised in this TED talk.  Introducing a very small congestion charge has a significant effect.

Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 11.28.47

One or two euros was enough to make 20 percent of cars disappear from rush hours.  If you can reduce traffic even somewhat, then congestion will go down much faster than you might think

People changed their behaviour.  Were they massively inconvenienced?

We did this huge interview survey with lots of travel services, and tried to figure out who changed, and where did they go? And it turned out that they don’t know themselves.  For some reason, the car drivers are — they are confident they actually drive the same way that they used to do.  

This seems logical, but without doing it, we’ll have no idea.  What I can’t understand is why TfL don’t start by charging, then decide whether we need another crossing.  Rather than building another crossing, then charging, then see if things clear up.

This is an amazing offer for TfL: it’s a trial which would make them money, rather than costing it.  (And there’s no negative – it’s infrastructure they will have to build, and unpopularity they will have to face anyway – as they’ve promised to toll the new crossing and Blackwall Tunnel eventually anyway).

TfL desperately want this toxic tunnel

However, even if it were to charge, TfL are adamant that a new bridge is needed:

While a charge at the Blackwall Tunnel would reduce some demand, a charge alone could not prevent incidents at the tunnel.

TfL say there were almost 1,000 incidents at the Blackwall Tunnel

Although a charge at the Blackwall Tunnel might reduce some demand from motorists – depending on the level at which it was set – it could not prevent planned and unplanned incidents at the tunnel, which is a significant cause of congestion across a wide area.

So we are building a toxic tunnel due to ‘planned and unplanned’ incidents.  What kind of incidents?

The new Silvertown Tunnel would significantly reduce incidents at the Blackwall Tunnel which force its temporary closure, in particular incidents involving overweight vehicles.

So, we’re going to spend £750 million to accommodate drivers of overweight vehicles – who presumably know they shouldn’t be using the tunnel?

Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 11.39.33

Source: TfL

Surely TfL can come up with a smarter approach to preventing people using a tunnel they don’t fit down than building another tunnel?


Image credit: Mcivory

We could even combine my two ideas: charge now, and spend some of the money on better incident prevention and breakdown services.  At at least £2 per journey, TfL can get its hands on perhaps £250,000 pounds a day – this would nicely cover something a high-tech solution and an investment in sustainable alternatives.

I don’t know for sure.  TfL may be right:

We concluded that a charge at the Blackwall Tunnel without any increase in new crossing capacity was not a suitable option, since it would not address our wider objective of reducing incidents at the Blackwall Tunnel and providing more resilience and choice for people crossing the river. In addition, although charging would reduce some demand to cross at the Blackwall Tunnel, there would still be significant congestion and adverse impacts on alternative crossing routes.

TfL don’t know either.  Concluding that a charge wouldn’t work without trying it is lunacy.  The best TfL can offer is a toxic tunnel, at a cost of £750m.  We won’t learn anything for five years, and we’ll face all the negative consequences before and afterwards.

TfL desperately need to take a 21st century approach – trial charging and find out.  Maybe some of those journeys aren’t necessary.  Maybe some of them could be retimed, rerouted or put on a changed mode.  We could find out and TfL could make a profit in the process…

Tell TfL you are against their toxic tunnel here – demand user charging instead.  The consultation is live now until Sunday, 29th November.

And help the No campaign, here.


Left Dangling: Crossing the Thames in East London

Should we be worried about the proposed Silvertown Tunnel?  Having cycled to work from East London to Woolwich from 2012 to 2014, this part of the world already faces illegally poor air quality, congested and dangerous roads, and a scar in the face of the A2 motorway cut through Kidbrooke.  The unwelcome news that my employer is moving to North Greenwich next year both reminded me of this issue and posed a more immediate concern: how do I get to work?

TfL are pushing to build another road crossing beside the Blackwall Tunnel.  Their latest consultation response came out earlier this year.  There are many, many things which make little sense, but I wanted to start with one which will directly affect me: their attitude towards people on foot and on bikes.

Improving cycling and walking links

At a number of points in the consultation response, TfL responded to requests for better links for people on bikes or on foot.  Each time, they followed the same formula:

We explained in our consultation materials that even with dedicated provision for pedestrians and cyclists (which would be necessary for their safety) the Silvertown Tunnel would not be an attractive place to walk or cycle through, and it was in recognition of this that in 2012 we introduced the Emirates Air Line cable car.

As set out in the Mayor’s Transport Strategy, the Emirates Air Line cable car was introduced to provide a convenient crossing for pedestrians and cyclists between the Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks.

In reality, few cyclists and an extremely small number of pedestrians would be likely to use a facility within the tunnel given that it would be quicker to cross the river via the Emirates Air Line, which provides connections to key areas on each side of there river.

The implicit claim then, is that, for pedestrians and people on bikes, the Dangleway is “attractive” (quotation 1), “convenient” (quotation 2), “quick(er)” (quotation 3).

As someone unlucky enough to have to work in North Greenwich from next year, and living in East London, here is my Dangleway Level Of Service assessment:


Attractive cycling and pedestrian links generally don’t charge you for the privilege of using them.  Or at least, they aren’t substantially more expensive than the alternatives.

If I caught the Dangleway to work with my bike each day, it would cost me £3.40 in either direction; £6.80 return.  Paying £6.80 for a journey, when one of the attractions of cycling is it is practically free is hardly attractive.

Indeed, almost any other way of getting to work would be cheaper: it would cost me £1.70 each way to use the Overground and tube.  Or, at present, no fee at all to drive.

While there is a discount for regular ‘commuters’ on the Dangleway, it is equal to the cost of getting to my new workplace by Overground and tube.  And since I have the choice, there is no chance I will visit the North Greenwich offices five days a week, which is what’s needed to gain this discount.

Attractive cycling and pedestrian links also don’t wobble: as someone who’s afraid of heights, I don’t find adding a terrifying Dangleway ride to my scary enough cycle particularly attractive.


The Dangleway opens at 7am and is closed by 9pm in winter.  At my last job (in Woolwich), I had to be at work by 7.25, so getting their with my bike via the Dangleway would have been impossible.  Sometimes I have to work late; sometimes I like to join colleagues for a drink after work: a convenient crossing would cater for such circumstnaces by being open 24 hours a day.

A convenient transport link still works when it’s windy, too.


The average Dangleway crossing takes seven, eight or perhaps even ten minutes.  A quick crossing would not have an alternative mode of transport offering a far swifter route next door (the tube).

Indeed there are few journeys in central London which are 2 1/2 times faster by car than by bike.  Yet TfL’s priority is to make it easier to drive across the river here, not to cycle or walk.



Dangleway success?

If TfL intended to create an attractive, convenient and quick crossing for people on bikes and on foot, they failed: the Dangleway had four regular commuters in 2013 and none in 2014.  An attractive, convenient and quick link for pedestrians and cyclists would be free, open 24 hours a day, and no slower than its neighbouring tube journeys.

What TfL have created in the Dangleway is a tourist attraction, and one that doesn’t even break even.  I don’t mind (although I struggle to see how this fulfils TfL’s mandate); I do object to TfL doing nothing to improve crossings for people on foot and cycling, proposing to spend £750 million on an additional link for drivers and then using this joke of a crossing to pretend that they have done anything for sustainable travel.

In Central London, TfL are finally building for the future, with the East-West and North-South Cycle Superhighways making it possible for ordinary people to consider cycling to work and play and a sensible reallocation of road space towards healthy and sustainable forms of transport a reality.  Meanwhile in East London, they are planning for the past, for a world in which everyone drives, and every driver’s desire to go wherever they like quickly must be accommodated, while cyclists and pedestrians can be fobbed off with a crossing which is inconvenient, unattractive and expensive.

Two factors in mitigation

  1. TfL have given Sustrans £200,000 to sketch out plans for a new walking and cycling link from Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf: something far cheaper, and far more sustainable.  It won’t get me to work, but it looks like they are finally considering sustainable transport links.
  2. Silvertown Tunnel makes no sense, on almost any rational grounds.  I’ll write more about them in future, but a close examination of the business, traffic and air pollution cases for the tunnel should make it possible to prevent it being built.

There is far more on this by Darryl at 853blog and at No to Silvertown Tunnel.

CycleDireHighway – CS3: TfL get it wrong again

Since January, I’ve commuted, in part, down Cycle Superhighway 3.  I have been meaning to write for ages about some of the spectacularly dangerous and inept junction designs on the route.  But before I’ve even had time, TfL have done something so colossally stupid, I have to cover it first.


They’ve only gone and blocked it completely.

Now, I know there are fairly limited (but not unwelcome) improvements planned to CS3 (I don’t know if this is related to that, and when I tweeted TfL asking what they were up to, I didn’t get an answer.  Clearly something significant is happening, and the scale of the work means the cycle track has had to change.


In the process however, TfL have taken the only safe, segregated route out of the centre of London to the east, and closed it.  And provided:


There’s a cyclists dismount sign too, out of shot.

The bizarre thing – the thing that shows TfL, or at least large parts of it, still don’t get cycling, or don’t consider it as a worthwhile mode of transport, is that they’ve kept the road open next to it.  It’s a vile little rat-run full of commercial vehicles.


Yesterday, but I’m making a collection of all the through traffic rat-running down Cable Street if anyone wants it.

Let’s recap.  TfL have blocked the only safe east-west route in Tower Hamlets, when they could have closed the road and let cyclists still have a safe route – and instead, they’ve left open a rat-run to drivers instead.

There’s no warning further up the route – even if there were an alternative.  So what do you think every single person on a bike did?

CIMG9998 CIMG9997

CIMG9995  CIMG9993 CIMG9992

TfL – making CS3 less safe, and less pleasant, for everyone.

But don’t fear – there’s still space right next to where all the other pictures were taken for pavement parking.

CIMG9996As ever, I’m trying to be balanced.  TfL are doing some great stuff on CS2, that I blogged about today.  But this is so spectacularly clueless, I still wonder what’s going on inside the organisation.  Sort it out – the works are due to last until November.

CycleSuperHighway: CS2 Super Junction Opens

Cycling home this evening up Mile End Road, I came across TfL and police officers issuing advice to people on bikes…


TfL’s rep informed me that something a little different had opened…


Cyclists approach the junction down this segregated lane, to the outside of left-turning drivers (picture looking back up the road)


So this is how things line up for the race off the lights…  Three lanes of drivers, one of people on bikes – as it was before…


But the race off the lights never happens.  People on bikes, and drivers going straight on get green, while drivers turning left are held on red (you can just about see the car in the centre with its left-indicator flashing not moving; the cyclist turning left (right of this picture) has made it around the junction in safety…).    


You are also free to wait where the cone is in the middle of the junction for a two-stage right turn; if doing this, you get a four-second head start (dodgy proposition, but it’s a start…).


Most people on bikes weren’t using it yet – it only opened at 12 today.

Brilliant news!  Well done TfL.  Much safer and more pleasant (and now operating in both directions).

Two acute problems with the route, obvious from the start (see my consultation response on CS2) now rear their ugly heads again.

Why aren’t people using it already?  Answer, because the preceding track isn’t there yet.  But unfortunately, it never will be.  This is the part of the route where TfL caved in to traders’ objections (led by the then mayor, but that’s another story).  So people on bikes will be rounding buses at that stop and dodging the various kerbside activities conducted along the road – loading, unloading, rubbish clearing – all in the usual company of taxis, buses and motorbikes.  There will be more casualties in this stretch of road until TfL sort it out.


My earlier picture showed a person on a bike turning north up Cambridge Heath Road.  Having two good east/west cycle routes in Tower Hamlets makes the complete absence of safe north/south routes (except Regent’s Canal Towpath) even more noticeable.  This is Cambridge Heath Road, two hundred metres north of the other pictures.  Four lanes wide (five further north), and lacking any space for cycling.

TfL is doing great work on CS2.  But a safe, attractive journey runs door-to-door.  Finally making CS2 safe begs huge questions about the dismal, dangerous roads which surround it.


One small step for in Hackney: improving Regent’s Row

To my regret, I’ve not had much positive to say about conditions for people walking or on bikes in my home borough.  In fact, things look pretty terrible, whether it’s the apparent overall strategy of the borough, or the inexplicably dreadful Wick Road plans.  So it’s nice to be able to recognise somewhere Hackney Council are doing things right: this post celebrates a small but important improvement.

Regent’s Row was one of the many foetid little rat runs, full of drivers rat-running at speed, which run parallel to Regent’s Canal.  I don’t much like cycling down the canal and avoid it at all costs at the weekend when it’s too busy to get anywhere on a bike, but I hated cycling down this road more: it’s about as wide as a vehicle, and its high kerbs left nowhere to escape when facing (or chased) by hurrying drivers.

What have Hackney done?

The first part of the scheme removed the fencing that run all along the canal and created three access points for people on bikes (or in wheelchairs, with pushchairs, etc.).  They have also put in planters, which will no doubt be lovely once filled (and if looked after).

More importantly, a gate at the junction with Marlborough Avenue makes the road access only.  (There was never any reason to do otherwise, since there are two busy parallel roads within a couple of hundred metres in either direction (Pownall Road and Whiston Road)).


Another thing that made the road unpleasant to cycle down was the cobbles running the whole length.  These have been removed (although little attractive rows remain which presumably have a speed reducing effect.


Overall, Regent’s Row has gone from unpleasant rat run into an attractive parallel stretch for people on bikes, leaving more space for families (and joggers) on the canal towpath itself.

So what next?

1) How can we make Regent’s Canal better?

This weekend, a petition cropping up asking Google Maps not to show Regent’s Canal as a cycling route.  I’m no fan of the existing situation along the towpath (and I walk down the towpath more than I cycle) but this seems entirely the wrong way to go about things.  When cycling, if there were any viable traffic free alternative, I would be happy to take it – but there isn’t one,  This is a small start of a few hundred yards, but perhaps its time Hackney, Camden, Islington and Tower Hamlets got together and created a genuinely traffic free, desirable alternative parallel route (with the help of the Canals and Rivers Trust).  (It’s always worth creating an attractive carrot before reaching for the stick).


In need of some love and fewer rat-running drivers.

2) How can we make Hackney better?

There’s a lot of pride in Hackney about the filtering of roads to create safe space for pedestrians and people on bikes.  This is a fantastic example.  Yet unfortunately it can occasionally feel as though pedestrian and cycling campaigners are criticised for their ingratitude if they demand more or faster improvement to Hackney’s streets.  Firstly, let me say, again, this is great.

But it’s not enough.  This (to my knowledge) is the only filtering scheme that will go in this year among the hundreds of streets Hackney manages.  (The Middleton Road filtering that was promised as part of Quietway 2 has been delayed, with no firm date, until after the Quietway launches).  Given that filtering is frequently referred to as one of Hackney’s great achievements, it would be great to see a plan which categorised every access road in Hackney as such (using the same principles as the Dutch CROW manual) and then planned to filter them and remove rat-running drivers from every single one, at a rate of dozens per year.

So, a small step forward – time for a big leap.

Quietway 2 – a sneak preview

If you cycle – or you’d like to but are scared to start – you’re probably looking forward to all the new cycle infrastructure being built around London.  I’ve shared pictures of the first stretch of upgraded Cycle Superhighway 2 and now I’m delighted to be able to show what one stretch of Islington’s Quietway 2 will look like when it’s complete.


Margery Street as it will look when the Quietway plans are complete.


Another impression of how the street will look once Islington’s promised improvements are completed.


This picture shows the safe space for cycling which will be available at this junction once the scheme is completed (Islington will be working alongside TfL and Camden to achieve this)

How can you know what the Quietway will look like before it’s finished (or even started)?

By looking at Islington’s plans.  Below is the stretch of road shown in the three pictures above.  When travelling west, the Quietway proposals for this road are: “New sinusoidal speed hump”

Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 18.01.06


So these pictures are exactly what we will see when the Quietway is complete – because Islington Council (and TfL, and Andrew Gilligan, London’s Cycling Commissioner, and the mayor himself), propose to do absolutely nothing to improve the road beyond that single speed hump.

Although I wrote about the Quietway 2 plans when the consultation was a out, I have had the misfortune to have to cycle this route a number of times since during rush hour.  I have been astonished at the amount and weight of drivers using this road as a rat-run – particularly heavy construction vehicles with which no person on a bike should have to share road space.  (The road is also heavily used as a rat-run by Royal Mail vehicles).  I wanted to share these pictures because they show how this road will continue to look if Islington go ahead with its rubbish plans: no safer, no more inviting, no better for cyclists, current or potential.

Islington have not yet responded to the consultation.  I hope that they will take this opportunity to remove this rat-running traffic, which clearly should not be on minor, residential roads like this, and make the area safe for pedestrians and cyclists.

(Islington Council could look a few hundred yards across the borough boundary to Camden: although its approach to Quietway 2 is equally dire, the new scheme in Tavistock Place is truly promising and show a council which appears to understand cycling, care about its residents’ and visitors’ safety and be willing to allow them the choice of cycling safely.  I hope Islington councillors are taking note).