Wednesday, 7 July 2010

More on London's "Superhighways"


After showing perhaps the most dangerous cycle crossing in the UK a few days ago, now here's a chance (courtesy of gaz545) to see one of London's newest and most impressive pieces of cycling infrastructure: "Cycle Superhighway" number 7 - or should I say "Barclays Cycle Superhighway 7" as these things now have a corporate sponsor.

Just as before when I've covered London's "superhighways", there is very much to criticise. Here's a start, annotated with the time on the video:
  • 0:00 The "superhighway" is not continuous. At the start of the video there is nothing to see.
  • 0:02 At the road junction the white lines are missing, making it less obvious that drivers should not cut across cyclists in order to turn left.
  • 0:13 The cycle lane was narrow enough already, but becomes narrower - especially if you were looking at the line.
  • 0:15 The cycle lane is narrow, but also note the pavement (sidewalk) width
  • 0:23 Detritus in the cycle lane.
  • 0:24 The red line from the left crosses the "superhighway" and takes the place of the white line. I lived in the UK for many years, but I don't know the significance of this. Does it mean cars can park on this part of the "superhighway."
  • 0:37 Road works overflowing into the "superhighway," leaving even less space for the cyclist
  • 0:39 Arrows on the "superhighway" directing someone to the right. Presumably not cyclists...
  • 0:40 Oh, it's become a "bus lane". Over here we don't ride in bus lanes even when there are road works on the cycle path. Buses are really not compatible with bicycles, and there's nothing like them to lower subjective safety.
  • 0:47 The blue disappeared again, but returns, apparently a bit narrower than before.
  • 0:53 and it's gone again...
  • 0:54 A bus stop in the superhighway. There are better ways of taking cyclists past bus stops.
  • 1:05 Rough manhole cover nearly half the width of the "superhighway"
  • 1:06 Again the red line goes to the other side and back again.
  • 1:12 Another large manhole cover
  • 1:16 The "superhighway" gets a bit thinner again, and then another manhole.
  • 1:19 Railings against which cyclists can be crushed by motor vehicles.
  • 1:38 Another bus stop
  • 1:48 Another narrowing and then it disappears again
  • 2:03 Another narrowing, right next to a left turn and a change in the style of white line. This could give the impression that cyclists have lower priority.
  • 2:06 and another bus stop
  • 2:08 Passing another cyclist, but the "superhighway" isn't wide enough to do this without pulling onto the rest of the road.
  • 2:10 Disappearing blue paint again, right next to parking for cars so this could lead to drivers thinking they don't have to take any notice of cyclists going straight on.
  • 2:15 The "superhighway" suddenly swerves to the left.

And that's the end of the video. I didn't note all the problems I saw, it was a bit repetitive. However, I hope I gave a good impression of why this is bad infrastructure. I have pointed out 24 possible problems which occur in just over 2 minutes of cycling.

Summary

What do we have here ? It's not continuous, it doesn't offer cyclists a more direct journey than drivers, there is no proper segregation from the road so low subjective safety, the on-road lanes are too narrow, the surface quality is bad (manholes etc.), there is no special treatment for cyclists at traffic lights. It's really an extraordinarily poor example next to what the Dutch are doing, without any of the fanfare.

For more on the London "superhighways", click here. To see what we get here in the Netherlands, click here.

19 comments:

Green Idea Factory said...

It's a bunch of paint, and not too thick at that. I am not sure what is going on in London, though I have a feeling there are a bunch of TfL workers who are practically in tears - scared of losing their jobs - when they are forced to manage the implementation of this garbage.

Barclay's Cycle Hire
is bad enough - I thought that planners and politicians had learned their lesson about "ads-for-bikes" - but their sponsorship of these "highways" is over the top, and when you consider they are so inadequate you wonder if Barclay's actually cares or indeed if there are some arguments brewing between their marketing dept. and London officials as more and more reports come in about the lack of quality of this infrastructure.

Bixi/Public Bike Systems
, the provider of the bikes and system for Barclay's Cycle Hire, got it's start in Montreal with funding from Rio Tinto Alcan, whose parent company mines uranium. Serco, the operator of Barclay's Cycle Hire, co-manages the UK Atomic Weapons Establishment, and Barclay's finances the arms trade. Does any amount of cycling make up for that?

Seems it's all part of the wacky world of Boris Johnson, who has actually recently said some damn fine things about a couple of children cycling to school.

Anonymous said...

Have a look at Heraclion, Crete, Grece:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uDkWiUERd2Q

SM said...

"it's a bunch of paint" - but even that has failed. Apparently, the blue paint reduces the friction of the road surface to dangerous levels when wet. Imagine in the winter when it's icy! At first, last year! I was excited about all of the cycle infrastructure improvements being promised this summer? But now?......

freewheeler said...

What is depressing is that this pointless blue paint is apparently costing the phenomenal sum of £23 million.

For that, London could have made a start on Dutch-style cycling infrastructure. It takes me an hour to cycle the relatively short distance from outer London to the West End, because I am required either to use hellish main roads or follow a convoluted backstreet cycling route. A genuine 'cycle superhighway' would let me whizz in to the centre on a safe, direct route where I was not required to stop every couple of hundred metres or so.

neil said...

> 0:13 0:24 etc

The red dotted lines, you'll see they are actually boxes and I think that means its a red-route loading area or something like that. Not sure as red routes are a London only thing, but yes I think that means there could be something parked in there.

neil said...

Red Route Parking and loading bays - http://www.tfl.gov.uk/roadusers/finesandregulations/949.aspx

David Hembrow said...

Neil: Thanks for the explanation. We didn't have "red routes" where I lived in the UK. They seem to be a London thing. Sort of like double yellow lines, on which you're not supposed to park, except that when they're red they're actually enforced. Or something like that.

So it's true - London really has designed car parking bays into the "Barclays Cycle Superhighways." It's hardly wonderful, has the bank yet realised that they made a mistake by being associated with this mess ?

Gaz said...

Thanks for using my video David, I appreciate the extra views your blog will bring to it, and you highlight some very good points.
Whilst i'm critical about the super highways, i doubt the dutch systems was built in a few months. These super highways are an improvement over what we already had, and this will aid in changing drivers opinions of cycling.
In some places which had no cycle lanes, and was a 2 lane road. It has now been changed to have a cycle lane and 1 vehicle lane. This will mean that motor traffic is hopefully going to be slower, and cyclists even faster, which in turn should hopefully get people out of there tin boxes.

Mark said...

I fully agree on all the observations. This is bad on so many levels. Not only is it a waste of money but it gives people against cycle infrastructure a 'see-I-told-you-so' weapon. Cyclists cannot be convinced either that it is better to have cycle paths, because when they are built like that it indeed isn't. I too would not like to cycle there.
Calling it a 'superhighway' makes it even worse. So weird that what we have here in the Netherlands is far superior and we just call it a 'path'.
You have written before about the new cycle plan of 's-Hertogenbosch. I now made a video about how it is developing 6 months after the start of the campaign and maybe London could look to see how a small provincial town gets it right.

Anonymous said...

This won't help most cyclists, it will simply encourage drivers to only think about cyclists when there is some blue paint on the road :(

billy said...

"0:23 Detritus in the cycle lane."
....and that never happens in the wonder cycling countries of Europe?

David Hembrow said...

Billy: It's three years since I emigrated and I don't think I've yet seen as much litter where we live now as you see in that short video, let alone big lumps of whatever it is that are at 0:23.

The standards of maintenance are extremely high here, and people seem less keen as individuals on making a mess of their surroundings.

The worst example of fly-tipping I've ever seen in this country was about six years ago on one of the many visits we made here checking the place out before we moved. A pile of Sainsbury's carrier bags full of rubbish had been dumped next to a road in Brabant. There is no Sainsbury's supermarket on this side of the North Sea.

jonbendtsen said...

@Billy:
No, it does not happen in Denmark. In Denmark every household has a larger trash can. When i grew up it was a stationary with a large paper bag. These days it is a plastic wheelie bin with a plastic bag inside. Often we have for kitchen trash + plastic, and one for paper. In larger housings we have for glass and cardboard as well in larger containers.

You carry your trash from inside smaller trashcans in your home to these larger ones outside.

The trash collectors actually pick up the wheelie bins at peoples property. If you dont want visitors you have to put it out to the end of the your private road.

From there the trash collectors drive it to a recycle facility where they reuse what they can, burn what can burn, and burry the little rest. The heat from this burning is often used in city centralized heating that brings heat and hot water to every home in all major cities, and in the rural country side, to the city that happens to be near the incendiary plant.

So Denmark do not have large trash dumps. I think this system works very well, and we dont have pests that go into the trash.

Anonymous said...

Whilst I don't feel sufficiently qualified to comment on the merits (or not) of coloured surfacing in cycle priority measures. I am happy to point out a few technical clarifications regarding these line markings...

0:02 At the road junction the white lines are missing…

This is because zig-zag markings are already present on the carriageway. The Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions (TSRGD) 2002 prohibit the use of other road markings where zig-zag markings are used.

0:24 The red line from the left crosses the "superhighway" and takes the place of the white line…

The red line forms the markings for a priority (Red Route) box. The Red Route sign on the lamp column indicates usage. Whilst hard to make out, it looks like parking is permitted outside of the peak period.

Red Routes are now available in other parts of the UK and are not restricted to London.

Ironically, in some cases, they are less restrictive than Urban Clearway restrictions.

0:39 Arrows on the "superhighway"…

These are standard Bus Lane deflection arrows to warn traffic to merge into the offside lane on the approach to the Bus Lane taper.

2:03 … a change in the style of white line. This could give the impression that cyclists have lower priority.

Far from indicating a lower priority, the shorter white line markings are designed to alert riders to the fact that they are passing a junction and should be alert to other vehicles attempting to cross their path.

Ian said...

There's a new BBC article and video on the "superhighways". The BBC video makes them look even worse - hardly cycle lanes at all, given the number of motorised vehicles using them. I didn't realise that motorised vehicles could use them (at least in places).

alex k - north london said...

There is nothing special with this scheme. In Germany, the Netherlands, for instance, the cycle PATHS are SEPARATE from moving traffic, with separate signals on junctions, sharing the cycle path perhaps with pedestrians but not cars, buses and lorries that - ignorant of the road, often swerve into the bus/cycle lane (which in London) is separated by a line of paint.

neil said...

@Ian - cycles lanes can be driven in if they have dotted lines, rather than solid boundaries.

I believe even mandatory cycle lanes (mandatory for cars to stay out of that is), can allow access to parking, drives etc.

tedsfiles said...

I think its damn good news! Never in the history of the fat anglo countries (eg UK, USA, and my home Australia) has there been even an attempt at this kind of thing. A bunch of paint can make a huge difference. I'm jealous, and would love to have this in cycle-path starved Sydney. sigh.

Anonymous said...

I worry that cyclists are designated to the side of the road, when normally cyclists have the right to be treated as a vechile on the road aka the middle. I never ride up the inside of buses/lorries as I know they are not looking... they might object to me being in the middle of the lane, but at least they SEE me.