Transport for London has published its consultation report on the Battersea Bridge Safety Improvements scheme. This scheme proposed changes to the lethal junction where Jack Ryan was killed while jogging in January 2021 and a woman suffered life-changing injuries while cycling there in 2022.
Some of the improvements were opposed by Kensington and Chelsea Council and certain residents, so it’s good to see that TfL plan to go ahead with all the proposed changes at the junction itself. The scheme will make a significant difference to safety there. However, in our view it doesn’t go far enough, especially for cycling in the wider area – and there are some worrying hints of safety measures being watered down.
Crossing this junction on foot will be much safer. There will be a signalised pedestrian crossing on each arm of the junction, adding three more to the one installed following the death of Jack Ryan. For cycling, there will be a new short stretch of protected cycle lane approaching the junction going west and dedicated cycle signals – this should prevent a repeat of the left hook that caused such serious injuries to a woman cycling there in 2022. On the eastbound approach, motor vehicles will be banned from turning left into Beaufort Street, which will make cycling straight ahead safer. There will also be a new stretch of bus lane on the westbound side.
While the report says that Transport for London will go ahead with the plans they consulted on, there are a few caveats…
TfL said “In response to feedback, we have reviewed the hours of operation of this bus lane from 24-hour bus lanes to 7AM to 7PM.” In terms of feedback, the bus lane was not commonly mentioned in free text responses to the consultation (although the scheme having a “negative impact on traffic congestion” was the second most commonly raised issue). However, notably, there appear to have been objections from some councillors, the MP and residents’ associations – with shared language likely to leaflets and social media posts being circulated between them.
Similarly, TfL promises to “review the feasibility of modernising the width restriction on Albert Bridge to 7ft to assist traffic flow, which would help to relieve traffic congestion”. Again, while concerns around Albert were brought up in consultation by some stakeholders and some respondents, all of this fails to take apparently any account of the single most commonly raised issue by respondents, characterised by TfL as “Request/suggestion to install segregated/better protected/extended cycle lanes in the area or on Battersea Bridge”. TfL’s response to this is: “Due to the physical constraints of this listed structure, it is not possible to provide cycle lanes on Battersea Bridge”.
This seems a rather dismissive response , given that TfL’s own Strategic Cycling Analysis shows Battersea Bridge on one of the highest priority/potential corridors for cycling in London, and Chelsea Embankment going east from the bridge is another. Both were raised by LCC in our consultation response. Second, this response ignores the fact that its own code says “in the area or on Battersea Bridge” – in other words, by solely mentioning the bridge in its reply, TfL misses a key element of respondents’ concerns.
This strongly suggests a degree of bias in the consultation. On the one hand, a smaller number of respondents and some powerful stakeholders raise ‘concerns’ around increased congestion, displaced traffic and so on, without good and clear evidence to back them, yet these concerns are acted on. On the other hand, a larger number of respondents – and several key active travel stakeholders with expert credentials – raise well-evidenced issues, and these issues are not only not acted on, but summarily dismissed without a proper response.
The reduction in hours of the bus lane will potentially impact bus journey times and will clearly be negative for the amenity of the scheme for buses. Meanwhile, the scheme – which already was too weak for cycling – will be weakened further and potentially further still for cycling – and all of this without adequate clarity of response or evidence. TfL increasingly resembles an organisation, on the basis of this and other consultation reports, that does not understand how to deliver on its own mode share and mode shift targets for Net Zero and the Mayor’s Transport Strategy, and does not care about responding appropriately to stakeholders and consultation respondents.
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