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

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.

Convenient

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.

Quick(er)

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.

Cycling

Driving

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.

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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.