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.