We urge supporters to tell Transport for London that plans for Elephant and Castle fail to provide safe passage for cycling

We're urging our supporters to express strong dissatisfaction with Transport for London's proposals for Elephant and Castle.

The latest flawed proposals come soon after we rejected TfL's proposals for Kings Cross, which present people on bicycles with unacceptable risks of being hit by turning motor vehicles. 

Respond to Transport for London's consultation (until 30 April 2014)

Our key criticisms, which we strongly urge you to mention in your Elephant and Castle response are:

- Northbound: cycling journeys are likely to be extremely dangerous (option A) or extremely inconvenient (option B). With the potential for serious collisions between turning motor traffic and people on bicycles (option A) and less dangerous but still highly undesirable conflicts with bus passengers and pedestrians (option B).

- Southbound: the lack of protected space allowing safe passage past the link road is a serious failing, creating serious unnacceptable risk of collisions with many buses and other motor vehicles. 

Detailed criticisms

Many people know Elephant and Castle as the scariest and most dangerous junction through which to cycle in the whole of Greater London.

High-speed motor traffic spins around, cutting across the route of thousands of cyclists heading to and from the city centre. 

Plans to redevelop the junction were dropped in 2010 because of concerns over reducing motor traffic flow but, since then, we and others have led strong campaigns for safer junctions, resulting in the Mayor's "Better Junctions" programme.

For over a year, Transport for London has been working to produce new designs for this dangerous location.

TfL plans to remove the roundabout, but has failed to resolve the real problem caused by a fast multilane highway cutting through an urban town centre and public transport interchange.

The new design will still include up to six lanes of two-way motor traffic rushing around three sides of a new public space made from the old roundabout.

There is a large amount of protected space for cycling, but critical gaps remain.

The main cycle flows are north-south with over 1500 cyclists an hour at peak times, and over 2000 are expected by 2016.

East-west flows are much lower, but are likely to increase even faster if it the journey is made less hazardous.

Heading south 

Cycling south through the new layout, away from the City, would be greatly improved: there is protected space for cycling on the approach and around the curve. However, this fails to guide cyclists safely past the bus stops on the link road.

16 different bus routes use these stops, with vehicles manouevring from left to right or right to left. It's at this point that TfL has failed to provide protected space for cycling.

Heading north

Option A offered by TfL has a wide cycle lane outside the bus stops, but then leads into a crossover section where all the motor traffic heading west and northwest turns left across the path of cyclists.

When the lights are green this stretch will ressemble a race track, with drivers jockeying for position with people bicycles. The street corners will straightened out, increasing speeds and making the route even more hazardous than it is now.

 

Option B uses an off-road cycle track to make the journey safer for cycling, but crucially the track is too narrow for existing demand let alone the expected growth.

Peak cycle flows coincide with the busiest period when all 16 bus routes are loading and offloading to the pavements, creating masses of potential conflicts between pedestrians and cyclists.

The track leads to a crossing of St Georges Road, which adds extra delay before leading back into the lane where buses turn left into London Road.

When the cycle track is blocked riders will be enticed back onto the road where there is no protection at all and the motor traffic will be accelerating through the left turn.

One of the good points of the plan is that the smelly, frightening pedestrian underpasses will be closed, returning pedestrians to street level, giving better access from the tube and bus stops to the shopping centre, colleges and leisure centres.

Yet this is still an area where motor traffic from all directions is funnelled into a single road, when it should be a place for people not a bypass route.

You can tell us what you think by commenting below, and we'll be collating comments into our formal response to Transport for London at the end of April.

Replies

  • By jajaja at 05:49pm 28 Mar 2014

I am an experienced cyclist and I would be really frightened to use this system as described. Cyclists and cars need to be separated when possible and there is plenty of space to do this at Elephant and castle.

 

If it's seriously believed that cycling is good for you, then this scheme must be modified. Otherwise all the talk about encouraging fitness etc. is just hot air. 

It's great to see more campaigning for a safer better junction. Improvement is long over due but it's worth the wait and the fight to get it right. We are campaigning for a better junction than the proposal from TfL at this website: http://www.elephantandcastleroundabout.org

Southwark Council's Head of Regeneration Jon Abbot, who is spearheading TfL's proposals for the council in public meetings, told me on Monday he would not be using the proposed new cycle lanes - particularly in between the shopping centre and The Tabernacle - because for him, as a keen cyclist, he expects a safer faster passage in the lanes with cars. This statement reflects either an inadequacy for the provision or points to the relevance of segmenting cyclists between "road users" and "segregated lane users" who might be better served with clearly directed bypasses instead.  

For cyclists the proposal fails to consider the role of better using adjacent side roads, including the very effective CS7 that bypasses the area (bizarrely edited out of TfL's map) in the west already. Elephant Road for example to the east passes directly behind the railway station and adjacent to a new large Market Square and pedestrian shopping area but is ignored. There also appears to be little consideration given to the specifically more dangerous portions of the five junctions that make up the total junction, data we have graphed and publicised for them. 

Other negative side effects of the proposal are confirmed by TfL modelling which they have shared with us:

- Increased air pollution, particularly for the hundreds of residents on the western side

- Increased journey time for all users, cyclists, buses, motorists and pedestrians. Up to 41% slower for pedestrians to cross the road at the busiest point (across New Kent Road)

- Felling four mature trees to make way for massive road widening on the western side (4 lanes increased to 6+cycle lane).

While it divides opinion we believe there is still significant value in some of the subways being retained for pedestrian flow. They provide a direct, pause free passageway where collisions are impossible. In their current dilapidated and inaccurately signposted state some find them unwelcoming but they are still very busy (over 3,500 people in one hour at peak) and you're less likely to be a victim of crime down there than at surface Community Wardens tell us. We launched http://www.saveoursubways.org in 2012 to make the case. 

TfL's proposals are a behind closed doors bodge - community consultation was purposefully avoided until they could present their sales pitch and Boris could announce it in the press as a done deal. The 'consultation' seems pretty fake, a very manipulatively worded questionnaire and deceptive artistic impressions, so we campaign assertively. 

TfL will be available in person to answer questins between 11.30 and 3.30pm tomorrow at the London College of Communication. Representatives for "Say NO to The Bodge" will be there too to launch an alternative proposal.

Richard Reynolds

  • By NicJo at 10:01pm 28 Mar 2014
As it is, Elephant & Castle is a terrifying junction. It is so disappointing that the redesign still doesn't adequately cater for cyclists, now or in the future.
  • By pamfen at 04:44pm 29 Mar 2014
I pass through elephant twice a day by bike and agree with all the points raised in your article but I'd like to add another major concern is that the current cycle routes that bypass the junction aren't mentioned at all in this proposal - what will happen to them? travelling south/north I use the cycle path on new kent road, cross the road and onto meadow row then cycle crossing over newington causeway at Eileen house and through LSBU. There is another route through the newington estate/churchyard row/oswin street. I really welcome making the junction itself safer to cycle but there will still be many cyclists who won't feel it is safe enough and will want to use quieter alternatives (particularly those who feel more vulnerable including parents with children and older cyclists.) If these proposals are supposed to mean that the side routes aren't needed anymore then that is simply disgraceful!
  • By John C at 06:28pm 29 Mar 2014

You're making a strong case, so why spoil it with the unnecessary comment, nothing to do with cycling: 'One of the good points of the plan is that the smelly, frightening pedestrian underpasses will be closed, returning pedestrians to street level, giving better access from the tube and bus stops to the shopping centre, colleges and leisure centres.'

There's a strong local campaign to retain the subways, and many of us when we're walking DON'T find them either 'smelly' or 'frightening', but a very convenient way of crossing the road without waiting for ages for the little green man light to show for seven seconds!

 

John C

  • By hanrob_ at 01:47pm 31 Mar 2014

I'm use this roundabout everyday to get to and from work. These proposals are ridiculous, along with the ingenius plans to create a culutral hub in the middle of E&C - a coffee with added pollution for all, just what we all want.

 

I am a sabbatical officer at UAL's Students' Union and we had TfL come to consult students about the designs at London College of Communication. When I asked them cycling questions I was informed that they had been consulting with the LCC and that you had okayed all the plans? 

 

If this is not the case then I will be sending another email to them, highlighting that their student facing collegue was in fact lying to cover his tracks. 

 

There is still a month for consultations on the TfL website & I would urge everyone to email. There is also a campaign called 'Save our Subways' concerned with the pedestrian aspect of the plan, its worth checking our their campaign as well. Perhaps a collective campaign, with us here at SUArts could prompt more changes to their plans. 

  • By Bruce at 10:45pm 31 Mar 2014

LCC did not OK these plans.  The LCC Infrastructure Group fed back to the TfL Better Junctions meeting in December 2013 our view that this proposal was not safe for cyclists and in no way met the Mayor's Vision.  As part of our reponse we made a Powerpoint about the worst aspects, and also highlighted the collision record at the St George's Rd/Link Rd junction.  In our view this junction will be more dangerous in option A of the consultation proposal.  I have put this Powerpoint on my web site (www.healthyrider.weebly.com) and will add some other material soon.

Bruce Lynn (Southwark Cyclists)

Why is the questionnaire rigged to only allow responders to agree with their design or reject all improvements? 3rd option please, a.agree, b.disagree, c.other: specify, they used it in other fields of the same form, another design fail!
1. Replace subways with a http://hovenring.com/
2. Put the Motor traffic in semi-subways, less gradients for people and traps pollution from engines. Better still covered motor tunnels.
3. Their design does not have the needed 'dedicated & direct cycleway routes thru the junction' they falsely claim.
4. Reduce speed limit to 20mph with Bike lights and Dutch crossings to CROW design principles.
5. Allow improved tube/bus interchange without crossing cycleways.
6. Unless you reduce Motor traffic the air in the 'public space' will be so toxic, 'vitality' will be sadly lacking, but plenty coughing!
See http://maidstoneonbike.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/improving-elephant-and-castle.html?m=1 , for apparently a 17yr olds better design of all cycle provision here.

I should like to support LCC in their constructive comments on this issue - an appeal to the authorities to take note of their proposals.

Thank you.

I avoid this junction everyday by using back streets; just the combination of fast-moving traffic and long bus stops is scary on its own. Launching yourself out into a middle lane knowing the traffic in neighbouring lanes will be wanting to turn off at some point adds to the fear.

It's good that TfL are prepared to try something, but unless you create more than one (vertical) level for traffic, there's no way to avoid routes for different types of vehicles and pedestrians crossing each other's paths. The Hovenring, which I hadn't seen before, does create another level and looks brilliant for cyclists. I do get the feeling that the TfL traffic planners are using the 'old toolkit' as someone has remarked.

Also, we can't really put cyclists first if it creates more problems for pedestrians, so keep the subways. Otherwise perhaps HGVs could be rerouted elsewhere.

It would seem the only way to provide adequate space for cyclists and pedestrians to cross the Elephant and Castle, safely and conveniently, separated from TFL's required large motor traffic flows, is to produce a DIFFERENT vertical level for them.

The Hovenring solution puts cyclists on a high-up, open, circular track above the roads.   But this would not be very attractive for pedestrians; or for cyclists either, in wet and windy weather.

Why not consider the alternative - a TRANSFORMATION of the SUBWAY system, for pedestrians and cyclists, by lowering the whole of the centre of the E and C rounabout, and covering it with a geodesic biome - London's very own Eden Project!  

 

This would also provide the genuinely attractive, green, social space, the Mayor wants, insulated from traffic pollution and the weather. And with real tourist potential too.

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