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London’s cycle routes aren’t suitable for a big surge in use

Rik Andrew London SE6
01 June 2020

The emerging London Streetscape programme for temporary active travel measures (‘Temporary footpaths and cycle lanes to ease Covid-19 pressures’ LTT 15 May) seems to assume that existing cycle routes are fit for purpose a) for new commuter cyclists unaccustomed to peak traffic, and b) for a huge increase in cycling (now supposed to become the principal replacement mode for many thousands of Tube passengers). But they manifestly are not.

Routes end prematurely, failing to provide a safe journey into the central business district: 

  • CS8 ends the wrong side of Parliament Square – a major hazard – as is Wandsworth gyratory
  • CS2 ends the wrong side of Aldgate – it should continue into the heart of The City
  • CS7 is blocked by coach parking and powered two wheeler parking approaching Southwark Bridge
  • CS5 should continue north to Victoria, and not end half way around the Oval
  • CS6 gets very indirect at both ends: it should go directly to Kings Cross and the Elephant & Castle, and continue through both these major hazards / deterrents.

Most cycle lanes are also not wide enough for existing demand, let alone a big increase in demand; they must be an absolute minimum of 2.0 metres or else you cannot overtake within the lane. Remember, cyclist speeds vary a lot – one slow cyclist in a narrow lane causes a long queue. 

Many bus and cycle lanes are peak hours only – they are blocked by parked vehicles / moving vehicles between 10-4; they are no use after school (e.g. CS7)

CS3 takes space away from pedestrians in Cable Street – it should and could be located on-carriageway, as stakeholders recommended in 2010, and Cable Street should be traffic calmed – not a through route. 

Most cycle lanes, and all bus lanes, end well before major junctions, where cyclists are most at risk but often have no facilities e.g. CS8 at Vauxhall and Chelsea and Lambeth Bridge  

Advanced stop lines are not Covid-19 compliant – cyclists often wait ten-abreast – and they are unsafe anyway (see TRRL’s report of 2011). Cyclists should now queue single file to maintain two metres distancing, but this requires much longer green times…  and increases the risk of Left Hooks 

Even where lanes / tracks are adequate, cyclists (and walkers) get very short green times at major junctions: often only five seconds e.g. CS2, CS6 causing bunching and limiting capacity. Walkers have to endure long waits and short greens; non-compliance is 70 per cent.

Holding left turn junction arrangements can resolve most of these serious hazards – and give walkers ample time to cross both carriageways – but it has often not been implemented, even at redesigned junctions where it’s easy to do so e.g. Archway; Southwark Bridge – and the notorious Bow roundabout.   

Even where cyclists (and walkers) now have safe holding left turn crossings with long greens east-west, they still don’t have them north-south, or vice versa, e.g. CS2, CS6 – so two-stage right turns cannot be safe. 

All the above problems apply to existing routes. But planned new routes will also end prematurely:

  • CS4 will end at Tower Bridge – it should continue to London Bridge
  • CS9 will end at Olympia – it must now continue along Kensington High Street, etc

There is also a large (90 degree) hole in the map in southeast London where there are no existing nor new cycle routes shown between the A24 and A21 – upgrading LCN22, throughout, is therefore urgent.

The Central London Grid, proposed in 2009, adopted by then mayor Boris Johnson in 2013, and subsequently endorsed by Sadiq Khan, still does not exist. Without it, cycling around Zone One will remain difficult and dangerous – especially for novices. The Grid should have and could still provide a coherent network of safe walking and cycling routes within Zone One. But Grid implementation requires a cross-borough task force – not seven London boroughs doing it their own ways.

Task forces are also a better way of getting radial routes done quickly and to a good standard – throughout – its extremely unlikely that the same old people / processes will deliver a high quality continuous network “within weeks” that the DfT (and Covid-19) now require.   

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Oxfordshire County Council
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Oxfordshire County Council
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