Changes to eastbound junction at Bow an improvement but cyclists and walkers still at risk

London Cycling Campaign has expressed concern that the new junction design on the western side of Bow roundabout, which opened on Friday 1 June 2012, isn’t making cycling eastwards significantly safer because of flaws in its design and a lack of clarity among road users as to how it works.

Gerhard Weiss, the LCC staff member working with Transport for London (TfL) on the junction review, said: "If TfL had taken our advice and separated pedestrian, bicycle and motor traffic across this very busy junction, then another serious casualty or fatality would be almost impossible.

"With the measures they've implemented, however, there's still a real possibility another serious collision could take place, even though this is less likely than before for eastbound cyclists."

The westbound side of the roundabout now features an ‘early start’ for cyclists, using a 12-metre Advanced Stop Line and cyclist-specific traffic lights designed to give cyclists a head-start to clear the left turn into the A12 before motor traffic is allowed to move.

As well as doubts about the junction's ability to protect existing cyclists and encourage new journeys, there’s strong disappointment that the new design does nothing for people on foot, who’ll continue to find it dangerous and time-consuming to cross the Bow junction.

And nothing at all has been done to improve the safety for cyclists using the westbound entry to the junction, the exact place where 34-year-old Svitlana Tereschenko was killed by a left-turning lorry in November 2011.

LCC wrote to TfL on 8 February 2012, when it revealed its choice of design, and in our letter we included a number of requirements that could have made TfL's design safer – sadly, none of these have been implemented (read our letter to TfL).

The new design is potentially an improvement on the previous lethal design, but there are concerns the new layout isn’t yet providing any increase in cyclist safety because of confusion among motorists and cyclists as to how it works, as well as problems with signage and traffic signal positions.

We and our borough groups are working with Transport for London to eradicate what, it’s hoped, are teething problems with the design, and that in time it will provide some increase in cyclist safety.

Although we acknowledge the new design is better than the failed junction that was there previously, we emphasise that this ‘head start’ design was not LCC’s chosen solution.

Because speeds and volumes of vehicles are so high at Bow roundabout, we proposed a design that largely used the existing road layout but separated cycle and motor traffic at the roundabout and on the flyover using cycle tracks and/or lanes and cyclist-only traffic phases.

We’re disappointed this design was rejected because Transport for London prioritised motor traffic flow above cyclist safety, and we wrote to the Mayor, also on 8 February, asking him to reconsider these misguided priorities (read our letter to the Mayor), reminding him of the principle of traffic evaporation, whereby the space allocated to motor vehicles can be reduced without causing congestion.

As a long-term solution, we propose redesigning the junction completely to make it a much more people-oriented and cyclist-friendly space, which would include removing the flyover and possibly the roundabout too.

Removing the flyover is entirely feasible because it was built in the 1970s when the main flow of motor traffic was west-east, whereas now it’s no longer necessary because most motor journeys have been west-north since the A12 (M11 link road) was realigned in the 1990s.

We welcome Transport for London’s willingness to introduce innovative junction designs like the ‘head start’ design, and although this was not our preferred option for this junction, we believe it could be useful in other parts of London.

Replies

  • By Wooders at 02:06pm 15 Jun 2012

I cycled down the Canal yesterday (southbound), from Leyton towards Limehouse.  The path stops at the flyover, and thus you are forced to disembark at Bow Roundabout, my my what a state it is still in, there is no safe place to cross to re-join the canal the other side.  I diced with death to wheel my bike to get across the road, and then had to cycle down the footpath on the opposite side (there are barriers the whole length of Stratford High Road thus impossible to turn across the road) and then down Sugar House Lane through Three Mills Studio to re-join. the canal. I survived!   I thought they had improved this area ready for the Greenest Olympics ever - balls have they !

I cycled round this on Wednesday evening.
I was lucky. When I arrived, the lights allowed me straight into the cycle box of the new facility.
Unfortunately, the difference in phasing between the cycle lights and the lights for the rest of the traffic is so slight, I'd barely left the cycle box before traffic was overtaking me. I certainly had not got into the protection of the curbed cycle way. Another explanation is that these drivers had got confused and left with my lights instead of theirs. Perhaps they had forgotten that they had two extra wheels and and engine?
Anyway, I am deeply unimpressed with this effort and it certainly isn't worth the money that TfL have spent on it.
Removing the whole sorry mess and restoring Bow roundabout to its pre-CS2 state would be safer as it wouldn't be trying to fool anyone into thinking that it is anything other than a recklessly dangerous car-centric fiasco.

I have cycled this route nearly every day for over 23 years, including Bow Flyover and most of what is now the (less safe) CS2 route. I also happen to regularly use a motor vehicle on this route and in a former life drove a lorry on it. Specifically, I do that specific roundabout junction as a cyclist ( or the flyover) every day and use a motor vehicle on the eastbound slip road (then turning left onto the A12) every week about five or six times at a minimum. I work long hours and see it at all times of day and(such is my sad life) at night too.

To call the changes at the junction safer is gravely mistaken. The 'Head start' given to eastbound cyclists is phased to coincide with a green light on the roundabout, meaning vehicles already on the roundabout going onto the A12  will collide with cyclists. I am more, not less, scared at that junction.

However the biggest, overwhelming issue is a very simple one which I wish LCC would take on as a single issue because it applies at every single junction where there are advance stop lines.  In this I am happy to state the case as cyclist and as a motorist. I also happen to be a motor lawyer.  A road user should never be invited to work out where the stop line is- it should be obvious and natural and intuitive.   And the most obvious way to achieve that  is to position  the traffic lights on the stop line and never ever beyond them. To put traffic lights beyond the first (motor) stop line invites a motorist to go into the cycle stop area. That is why on that hopelessly dangerous route which calls itself the CS2 you will see motor cars and motorcyclists well beyond the first stop line: they are not evil- they are confused. In the last month I have apprached three police cars to admonish their drivers for over running the first stop line and halting at the second. One told me that the cycle stop area was 'advisory'.  That may be a junior officer but if polce officers do not intuitively understand then what hope is there for an ordinary motorist? Lghts for cyclists and pedestrians should be at eye level.  Lights for motor traffic should be at standard level. And the ridiculous gantry-level lights and cross-junction lights which scream out ' Yes you are on a race track' should be systematically removed.

CS2 is distincltly more dangerous than it was 20 years ago when it was clogged with lorries- The only comfort now is in the massive number of cyclists on the route. But the junctions at Bow; Mile End/Burdett Road and Cambridge Heath Road are all death traps for cyclists.

Whoever designed the amended junction- come with me for a week on my route each day. But frankly- just go to any junction any day. Look at where the stop line is- now identify the location of the lights controlling the traffic at that stop line: for a significantly large number of road users- and this includes cyclists, sadly, they will see the 'final' stopping point as being where the main lights are- and they are rarely on the stop line itself.

 

Please LCC start a campaign to position (motor) traffic lights only on the sop line and to enforce the advance stop line safe zone against everyone.

There are simlar roundabouts all over London that haven't been discussed just because noone has been killed there yet.

There's one at Mottingham on an intersection of the A20 / South Circular motorway-sized dual carriageways that offer neither a safe place to walk or cycle across. I've been hit twice and felt i was taking my life into my hands every time i used them. I also appear to be the only cycling using them, and yet cannot seem to find an alteranative route that will take me to my house.

Maybe whent he Cycling superhighway gets built out to south east London there'll be some discussion of the problems out there and some thought as to why there are so few cyclists on the road in SE London.

  • By RogerG at 03:32pm 15 Jun 2012

The M11 Link Road was "built" (not "realigned") in the 1990s.  Previously it didn't exist at all, until c350 homes were knocked down to make way for it.

It's amazing how they still not get traffic segregation. All it takes is a Eurostar ticket to Rotterdam or Leiden to figure this out.

Ultimately 'Advance Stop Lanes', which are still being offered as the primary 'solution' at junctions, offer very limited benefits. Moreover they are rarely, if ever, enforced and the Police seem to lack the time or will to change this. 

The 'Easy as riding a bike' blog visited Bow on Day 1 of the new design and commented that "the police officers I was with at the junction simply did not have the time to deal with all the offences being committed by drivers passing them, be it no seat belts, fiddling with phones, talking on phones, jumping the lights, motorcycles driving in the segregated cycle lane, and so on"

The fact is that the Police don't even seem to be able to observe ASZs let alone enforce them - on my commute this morning I saw a Police BMW cruise slowly to a halt long after the lights had changed on Clapham Common Northside, half blocking the ASZ.  Is it any surprise that most motorists pay them no heed at all?  

The protective kerb here is a start but the overall solution still seems like a half hearted fudge rather than something truly radical.  

 

I travel eastward home to Leytonstone everyday. I have always taken great care at this junction and will continue to do so. However I do now feel safer having the segregated lane on the approach. That for me was always the tricky moment.

  • By BarryK at 08:25am 16 Jun 2012

I think there's a more fundamental problem with the redesign.

 

During busy traffic periods motorised vehicles will occupy the forward area as they will be there from the previous phase of traffic lights. There was a recent article in the Evening Standard extolling the virtues of the redesign which had an accompanying photogragh and right at the front of the ASZ was a large lorry waiting at a red light !

The TFL website (url below) has an animation that shows the proposed redesign in action and the forward area is waiting is painted blue and is empty of traffic, enabling a cyclist to have a head start. It also states "The dedicated cycling area is 12 metres deep, so there's a clear space for cyclists in front of any traffic."

But if there are vehicles in the ASZ then they and any cyclist there both set off at exactly the same time and if the vehicle is turning left then 'bingo'

http://www.tfl.gov.uk/corporate/projectsandschemes/22247.aspx

Another problem is that as previously stated ASZs are routinely ignored by some motorists and the police probably don't prosecute (leaving aside how busy they are - although I've seen then stopping and fining cyclists for going through red lights in the city - so clearly they have some spare time for road safety) because the offence is effectively categorised as going through a red light and the penalty is seen as a too harsh.

The underlying premise for the redesign was that motorised traffic flow could not be impacted and the net result is that TFL have spent a fortune for little if any benefit. The only road users adversely impacted by the redesign are cyclists, since if they obey the signals they cannot enter the ASZ at any time like a tradional design, they have to wait for the green cyclist light to let them in. So instead of making the junction safer for cyclists it's just introduced another reason to avoid it.

So most cyclists will probably continue to use the flyover - which they should make a single lane for vehicles in both directions (like it is westbound) and put a nice wide cycle lane on. And even TFL coudn't spend £200k doing that, could they ?

 

 

The Mayor promised to 'go Dutch' but has spent taxpayers money on a cycling project does not conform to Dutch principles. The Bow redesign is confusing and only alleviatiates some problems but creates others. There is still no provision for pedestrians. It is unsurprising that there is so much traffic in this area, as it is impenetrable on foot or by bicycle so people are forced to drive.

There is no justification for TfL to implement untested road designs. Dutch-style designs are well documented in their CROW manual and have been shown to be safe; they simply have to be adapted to UK traffic laws.

For example, for Bow Roundabout it may be a better idea to separate the 'straight-ahead' (i.e. onto the roundabout) and 'left-turn' motor traffic light phases. This will allow pedestrians and cyclists to safely cross the exit road when motor traffic is only allowed to go straight ahead.

I can't see the benefit.  This morning I went through eastbound for the first time, expecting to be confused and I wasn't disappointed!  Stopped at the Bike lights which were red.  wehn they turned green, i proceeded and nearly went thorough the next set onto the roundabout.  Even though I had been warned in this blog, it still feels odd to be told to go and thenm stopped within 10 metres!  So, wating at the red lights to get onto the roundabout, I was joined by cars.  No ASZ, no sense of any sort of priority.  The car to my right could easily have wanted to turn left and, had there been other cyclists behind me also wanting to go straight on, there is potential conflict.

As I said, I can't see the benefit.  Maybe TfL would like to explain!

As the police appear to have no intention of prosecuting ASZ contraventions, perhaps it would be better to lobby for civil enforcement under section 4 of the London Local Authorities and Transport for London Act 2003 instead, in the same way as other moving traffic contraventions (i.e. box junctions, prohibited turns), etc?

I appreciate that a £130/£65 PCN isn't as tough a penalty as 3 points + a fine, but a reasonable chance of having to cough up at least £65 would have a better chance of changing attitudes than a prosecution which will almost never be brought.

I firmly believe that all you can do is organise mass cycle rides through the junction to demonstate the inadequacy of the designers to get it right and put pedestrians and cyclists first - those at most risk.

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