Mayor's Cycle SuperHighway 2 extension the first step towards Going Dutch for London cyclists
- By London Cycling Campaign on at 3:59pm 31 October 2013
- Posted in: News and blogs
- Tagged with: dutch, superhighway, stratford, floating bus stop
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.
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.
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.