While there’s been a lot of noise of late about Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) going in across London at the moment and beyond, it’s now going to be the turn of the main roads to get schemes. TfL in its first round of crisis funding announced it was spending over half of its total funding on “strategic cycle route” schemes – and a significant chunk of the 65 schemes across at least 27 boroughs are main roads.
On top of that, TfL is also doing schemes on the “TLRN” roads it has direct control over, such as the A21 in Lewisham, which it has just announced plans for, and the CS7 upgrade to protected space in construction right now in Balham.
Round one funding schemes are due to be complete by the end of September, so schemes such as the A1000 in Barnet, Harrow Road in Brent, York Way in Camden, Uxbridge Road in Ealing, Green Lanes in Hackney, Romford Road in Newham, Kensington High Street in K&C, Kew Road in Richmond, and Garratt Lane in Wandsworth should all be in construction shortly. Hounslow Council has also just announced the beginning of the Cycleway 9 construction on Chiswick High Road in temporary materials.
Quality control in a crisis
There are questions and issues regarding these main road schemes as they emerge, that are also worth considering too, particularly around quality:
- Schemes going in right now are avoiding, due to time and budget constraints, most major changes to junction signal timings and phasings etc. A few junctions are getting cycle “early release” lights, but these only provide improved protection for those cycling who arrive on a red light. And as below, they aren’t sufficient protection to enable all ages and abilities to cycle through the junction in comfort. Banned turns are better – but can cause issues with opposition and obviously have to be planned on a network basis. More, renowned engineers like Brian Deegan are busily producing all sorts of other ideas on how to design temporary junction changes in the UK that haven’t been picked up in London, yet. Either way, junctions, comfort and “hook risk” collisions remain a concern in several main road schemes we’ve already seen.
- All of the schemes thus far seem very clearly designed not to impact buses – with many of the schemes using bus lanes as cycle provision for significant parts of the route. Obviously, the more motor vehicles able to use bus lanes, the less useful they are for cycling (motorbikes and taxis are often allowed into bus lanes); but more, bus lanes simply aren’t the “all ages, all abilities” provision that we need to enable most people to cycle in London. Using bus lanes for cycle routes may well be a pragmatic response to reallocating roadspace in a crisis right now, but may well cause real issues when it comes to a transition to a viable, permanent scheme.
- Provision at bus stops also needs consideration – a few schemes are using “bus stop bypass” provision where the track goes around the back of the bus shelter/waiting area, and some are using “bus stop boarder” type approaches where the cycle track passes between shelter and road/bus cage where the bus stops, often with a small waiting/alighting area between track and road. These approaches are far better than several schemes which simply see the track ending where the bus cage begins, so the bus effectively parks across the track. Obviously, this approach in a temporary scheme, where width is narrow may be acceptable, but it again will fail the “all ages, all abilities” test.
- Width of cycle track, usable width with protection type used, and level of protection provided all seem to be issues emerging with main road schemes too. Solid, water-filled barriers (these look like big pieces of red and white Lego) are cheap, quick to put in, but do take up a lot of space, need thought to provide gaps to enter and exit the cycle track and cross it for pedestrians, and can be shunted about by motor vehicles easily. Simple cones, placed in the road are worst. And, of course, a couple of councils including Westminster have also gone for just painted lanes – which is directly against both DfT and TfL guidance on schemes now (see below). Best of all, so far are “wands”, plastic poles bolted into the carriage spaced at regular intervals along the route. Wands, “orcas” and other “semi-segregated” protection need to be spaced regularly along the entire route, in a manner that avoids drivers simply parking between protection, but so that those cycling can come in and out of the protection easily.
- Side road junctions are also a concern in schemes we’ve seen – we’d like to see more use of blue paint to highlight cycle lanes crossing the junction mouth as an emergency measure, more tightening up of kerb radii to encourage slower, calmer turns in and out by motor vehicles (using painted chevrons or bolt-in blocks) – this would also cut pavement crossing widths and increase pavement size. And we’d like to see raised tables going in for side roads that don’t feature them yet. Any bidirectional temporary scheme (such as being done for Cycleway 9) will particularly need to be careful about design around side road crossings – and potentially consider introducing LTNs or other measures to reduce turning movements across the track.
- Finally, these emergency schemes should absolutely be introduced as much as possible with all of the good design guidance now out: the DfT’s new LTN 1/20 cycling design guide and Gear Change document, TfL’s London Cycling Design Standards guide and Quality Criteria.