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…

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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

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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?

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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…

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

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

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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…

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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…).    

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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…).

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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.

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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.

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CS2 upgrade – people on bikes voting with their wheels

This was the scene on Mile End Road outside the Royal London Hospital, heading into town at around 9.15 this morning.

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I cycled through the gap.  The drivers in the right-hand lane were going nowhere, and I didn’t fancy choking on coach fumes, the coach stuck behind the bus in front, for the next few hundred metres.  The two people on bikes behind me did the same, slightly to my surprise.

This was the scene half a mile further down the road, at around 2.30pm on my way home (going away from town):

CIMG9097There may be scope to encourage people to walk on the pavements a little more – although I guess at busier times of day, they’re more likely to do so voluntarily.

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People are voting with their bikes about where they’d rather cycle.

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Since it was 2.30 – outside the six hours a day during which the bus lane operates – until recently I’d have been cycling on the outside of these cars.  (The drivers appeared to be managing whatever their ‘kerbside activity’ was unhindered.CIMG9102

It ain’t perfect by a long chalk – this LCC post covers the pros and cons of this stretch pretty well here.  But honestly, what would you prefer:

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Segregation – finally on the way.