Mayor's Cycle SuperHighway 2 extension the first step towards Going Dutch for London cyclists

The extension of Cycle Superhighway 2 from Bow roundabout to Stratford is now in place (mostly), and it looks like it could be the start of something really good for London cycling.

We shot a video going east and then west (see above): the quality is a bit poor, especially in the rain, but it will give you a good idea of what the ride is like.

Note, the first few seconds of the video shows us coming off the Bow flyover and cutting across a stream of motor traffic: there's a safer, if slower route through Bow roundabout.

Overall, this new section of Superhighway is a massive improvement over anything seen in London before, and we're delighted the Mayor and Transport for London have responded to our Love London, Go Dutch campaign by raising the bar significantly.

The new cycle tracks aren't perfect compared with the best from overseas, but they do provide much safer and more comfortable experience than cycle routes on pretty much any other main road in Greater London.

Indeed, you realise just how much better the new section of Superhighway is when riding there along the appalling experience that is the older Bow-to-Aldgate section of SuperHighway 2.

The official opening is next week because the route isn't quite finished - not all the traffic signals work, signage is missing, and the crucial link to Romford Road is still a building site - but we've given an overview of what it's like below.

What are the route's successes and failures?

The new cycle route uses 2m-wide cycle tracks alongside each carriageway, with a motor traffic lane having been removed in each direction.

The cycle tracks feature bypasses around bus stops so cyclists don't have to interact with buses.

These short sections of cycle track inside the bus stops are rather narrow and the kerbs are too high, so you can't use the full width, but the principle is sound and interaction with bus passengers was conflict-free during our test journey.

Overall, however, the cycle track feels wide and comfortable, it's possible to overtake with ease.

We're pleased that Transport for London is finally doing something about dangerous right turns, and is moving towards installing a two-stage "London Right" turn (based on the "Copenhagen Left"), but we're frustrated that while the principle has been adopted, the details look all wrong.

In principle and practice, the new turns mean cyclists don't have to cross lanes of fast-moving motor traffic, which is a good thing.

The problem is, based on previews of the system, they achieve this in a confusing and indirect way.

At present, the two-stage right turn at Rick Roberts Way hasn't been completed, and the route cyclists should take doesn't look clear.

A further problem affecting these junctions is that those cycling on to new Superhighway from larger side streets will have a slip lane by-passing the traffic lights if they're turning left, but turning right they will still have to battle with motor traffic as previously.

It's not clear why a two-stage right turn is considered safer for the Superhighway, but not for streets that are very similar joining it.

We're pleased to see that where there are traffic lights, there are large ASL areas in the first general traffic lane. [see video at 5m 13s]

At first these seem incongruous because you're in a separated cycle track to the left, but when you ride the route you realise these hold stationary motor traffic back, giving cyclists a few metres advance and making them more visible.

It works really well when the lights are red, but of course there's some risk of left-turning motor traffic on green.

At major junctions, there should be separate traffic light phases for cycling and motor traffic to avoid turning conflicts.

At minor junctions the colour paint disappears, and it's necessary to watch out for left-turning motor traffic over your shoulder.

We felt there was some risk of cars and vans turning left across our path, especially as motor traffic on the carriageway is going fast at these points.

Bow roundabout

At the infamous Bow roundabout heading west, there's a copy of the road design that's in place going east, what we call 'guaranteed red' for cycling (TfL calls it 'early start').

Here, every cyclist will be caught by a red light either at the entry point or at the stop line, while motor traffic is given priority and is less likely to have to stop.

This is an improvement over the previous design, where two people were killed in 2011, but currently over 60% of cyclists ignore the roundabout, and choose to cut across a traffic lane to use flyover.

This is a sign that 'guaranteed red' is a design failure.

Stratford one-way system

Here the work is still going on and it's not clear how westbound cyclists will be protected from heavy turning motor traffic.

Some areas around the Grove and Romford Road will have cycling permitted on the pavements, which are crowded with pedestrians at the busy times.

Cyclists on the road will have to move out in front of left turning traffic to head for the High Street.

Going east, the new 2-metre protected track ends abruptly, and cyclists must join a narrow footway to head towards the station and Westfield, and they can use the pavement and two shared crossings to share a bus lane on Broadway.

The alternative is to battle all the motor traffic on the fast one-way road system if heading north or north-east.

What have people been saying?

Although the route isn't quite finished, enough of it is now open to get a feeling of what bits work and what should be better.

Those people we spoke to using the route appeared to appreciate the design, with one cyclist saying "at last they seem to be doing something for cycling".

Just where the proper segregated track begins we met a cyclist coming west on the eastbound track. He was heading for the Olympic park or canal path having crossed from the westbound track to avoid a long diversion around Bow roundabout. He was delighted with the new route: "It's a great improvement. It's much easier to get to work".

What do we think?

From the outset, we've stressed the importance of getting the junctions sorted, which is central to the Dutch ethos of reducing danger... prioritising cycling and pedestrian safety at junctions.

The new route gives good protection and feeling of safety between the junctions but risk points remain, and the failure to extend Superhighway routes through the Stratford Town one-way system compromises the new scheme.

At one stage, we had a close encounter with an Addison Lee mini-cab parked in the lane forcing cyclists into a stream of fast-moving motor traffic, so it's important road rules are enforced along this potentially high-cycling-traffic route.

Just here there is no physical segregation for the first section after Bow junction. That allows cars to block the lane and the bus has to cut across it to stop. This is also where westbound cyclists heading for the canal towpath might be riding in the contraflow direction.

Replies

  • By bigpete at 06:32pm 31 Oct 2013

Looks like a hugely significant step in the right direction. Nice work!

The angles on the bus stop bypasses look a bit sharp though. What with the narrowed path and the high kerb they could be a potential problem area just where you need to be looking out for bus passengers. 

Still such potential for vehicles to turn left in unsuspecting cyclists' path though. Scary.

The angles on the bus stop bypasses look a bit sharp though. 

I rode the trials for these at TRL in August. The picture makes them look a lot meaner than they really are; you can't really do much more than 18mph through them, but then, with pedestrians around in proximity, _should_ you be going *that* fast anyway?

  • By SimonS at 07:48pm 31 Oct 2013
As ever, not perfect, but massively better than before. Good to see hardy cyclists out in the rain ;-). Any news on CS5? I also read on a TfL board report that future CS's will not be as segregated, which will be a shame if true. Got to keep up the pressure!

I rode up and down yesterday lunchtime. There were no less than seven vehicles parked on the tracks, including two in the segregated sections. We'll have to be careful these don't end up being used as 'service' roads. The physical segregation ends far too soon before the junctions allowing vehicles to blithely move over to the left at speed and push you off the road. Continuing the segregation - even 'semi' segregation - right up to the junction would force vehicles to slow right down and give cyclists a chance, Still, it's 90% there. Hurrah!

This post was edited by Orientandy at 10:48am 01 Nov 2013.

  • By Dave H at 08:33am 01 Nov 2013

The facility to filter on and off the flyover looks to be creating a potential hazard as there is only limited provision to cut through the kerb line.

The kerbed deflections at bus stops might be less hazardous if the cycleway was lifted to footway level all the way through (it already is for the crossing point). This would mean a more random crossing behaviour for all pedestrians but a fit pedestrian will still be crossing on the shortest route to the bus anyway. 

Some of my January 2013 suggestions, have been taken on board and I look forward to trying the contraflow ride west to the canal path as well as trying to reach the greenway across the traffic.

The other day, there were massives congestion problems for westbound traffic -I was stuck on a National Express coach and buses now have to sit with other vehicles in two lanes (previously three lanes). There is plenty of room on the empty pavements to and from Stratford to create cycle paths without upsetting motorists and delaying bus passengers.

I hope that Newham can provide an intelligent solution to the challenging one-way system at Stratford centre but after seeing their work so far, I shall not be holding my breath !!

This a route I have used for a years and its a great improvement - but the video shows some woeful gaps in design and also misbehaviour :

- no separate traffic light phases for cycles and vehicles turning left. Cyclists can still be cut up by vehicles

- cyclists crossing red lights. what is the point of improvements if cyclists continue ignoring basic rules designed for the safety of everyone. 

The video shows entering and leaving the  extension via the flyover - only idiots (and there are plenty of them)  would do that especially in wet conditions. As a cyclist myself I think the flyover should be off limits for bikes. It involves crossing and joining busy carriageways at each end - just about the most hazardous thing to do - and on the flyover there is no escape route to the refuge of a pavement. How can cyclists win the argument when so many take such risks. The notes did point out the alternative route beneath the flyover but that was the scene of more than one serious incident - have arrangements been been improved there? 

@Keith Penfold 60% of cyclists choose to use the flyover, so surely, they can't all be "idiots"? There have been zero fatalities on the flyover, and two on the roundabout so one can understand their choosing one risk (entering and leaving the flyover) over another (crossing the roundabout). Granted, Bow roundabout has been improved, as explained in the article, but it means delays and there's still a very real left-hook risk in either direction.

We're not sure what the rain has to do with route choices. 

We did ride the route several times, using both the flyover and Bow Roundabout. We didn't show it as the westbound lights have not yet been turned on so the early start is working as a super ASL.

Cyclists can enter at anytime and other traffic is stopped by a red light on the first line. This gives cyclists a little advantage but there is still a left turn risk.

Even in the unfinished state it is far safer than when Svitlana Tereschenko was killed by a careless lorry driver at this point.

Going east we got caught by an amber light on the cycle track resulting in a full 50+ second delay while all the cars got through on the first green. The A12 slip road has been closed for a few weeks so there is little need for protection from careless drivers.

The closure of this road has not created the total chaos and multiple collisions predicted by TfL's transport models. At the Brian Dorling inquest TfL claimed that reducing capacity on this link to provide a separate cycle and pedestrian crossing would be more risky than leaving it as it was.

From the video I noticed there  were a fair few light-controlled pedestrian crossings and also traffic joining the route from the right hand side only (with bikes and cars going straight on only). Has a bus-stop style by-pass been considered for these areas to reduce delays for cyclists where no danger exists?

 

It's a good start though. 

I've just used it for the second time. Again, several vehicles parked in the non-segregated eastbound cycle lane. I just hope the gains from this aren't too nullified by lack of enforcement.

  • By sid_day at 11:46am 04 Nov 2013

It's obviously a fantastic improvement setting the lane behind the bus stops is excellent and I wish Old Kent Road could have something similar however..

The junctions all look pretty scary especially with left turning traffic crossing the cycle lane.

Why aren't ramped/sloped kerbstones used at the sides of the cycle lane?

This approach is used in Amsterdam and struck me as safer for all concerned. 

 

 

Addison Lee, what a complete surprise, I bet none of us has ever seen that on a weekly basis... oh hang on.

  • By Dave H at 05:30pm 09 Nov 2013

Note, the first few seconds of the video shows us coming off the Bow flyover and cutting across a stream of motor traffic: there's a safer, if slower route through Bow roundabout.

Sorry but as pointed out by previous post - TfL official counting found 60% using flyovewr - my spot observations having breakfast at 3 Mills Cafe suggests 70% use the flyover, and the bulk of motor traffic is heading to the roundabout.

Using the flyover is inherently safer than any interventions made on the roundabout, as none of those measures can absolutely prevent a vehicle cutting across the path of a cyclist hence most cyclists choose the route with a near 100% guarantee that no driver is going to turn left acoss their path or emerge from a junction on the left or right and hit them, and with perhaps 80% of motor traffic (or more) heading for the roundabout, and one of the 2 Westbound lanes closed the pointers are even stronger to making the flyover the route for pedestrian and cycle traffic. 

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