TfL reveals Bow roundabout redesign plans - LCC gives cautious welcome

Plans include separate phase of traffic lights for cyclists only and two cycle lanes on Bow Flyover

by Simon_MacMichael   January 12, 2012  

Bow Roundabout lorry and flowers (credit- London Cycling Campaign under Creative Commons CC BY-SA 2.0)

Transport for London (TfL) has unveiled proposals aimed at improving the safety of cyclists at Bow Roundabout in East London, where two riders have lost their lives in recent months. While full details of the two main features that may be put in place have not been released, each takes a radical approach to redesigning a junction that has become a key focus of cycling campaigners’ efforts in recent months, and the London Cycling Campaign has given them a cautious welcome. TfL plans to complete any work before this summer’s Olympic Games.

The first of TfL's proposals for the roundabout provides what is described as an 'early start' facility that would allow cyclists to get through ahead of other traffic, thanks to a dedicated phase of green traffic lights. TfL says that it is planning to consult with cycling campaigners and the relevant local authorities on the issue. Both cyclists killed at Bow recently – Brian Dorling in October and Svitlana Tereschenko in early November – died after being hit by tipper lorries as they moved away from the lights.

The other would see one of the two lanes of traffic that runs in each direction over the Bow Flyover get removed and be replaced with new dedicated bike lanes, potentially with traffic signals at either end to give cyclists safer access. According to TfL, some 60 per cent of cyclists passing through the Bow interchange use the flyover, and it is hoped that this proposal could see that figure increase further still.

TfL also revealed that it plans to create cycle lanes on the eastern and western approaches to the roundabout to enable riders to arrive at what is proposed to be an enlarged advanced stop line area at the traffic lights. It adds that it is hoped that work can begin soon to be concluded ahead of the Olympics, which begin at the end of July.

Ashok Sinha, chief executive of LCC, which organised a candlelit vigil at Bow in November in memory of the victims there, said: “We’re delighted Transport for London has finally responded to cyclists’ calls for Bow roundabout to be redesigned, though it’s a tragedy two people had to die first.

“At first sight, these designs potentially offer improved cyclist safety, which is vital ahead of the Olympics when it’s hoped large numbers will visit the Games by bike.

“We welcome the fact that the two Bow proposals show a more innovative approach to cycling infrastructure than we’re used to seeing from Transport for London, including a willingness to use measures common on the Continent such as separate cyclist traffic lights.

“However, we’re still calling for a comprehensive redesign of the entire junction to bring it into line with the highest standards of street layout seen on the Continent, for the benefit of everyone.

“We’ll scrutinise these proposals in detail to make sure the safety benefits are real.”

It’s too early to say whether one – or both – of the main proposals will be adopted, but with one providing a cyclist-only phase of the lights, and the other removing lanes from motorised traffic, they both appear to mark a move away from TfL and Mayor of London Boris Johnson’s much criticised prioritisation of smoothing traffic flow.

Then again, there is a mayoral election looming in early May, less than four months away, and it’s already clear that the safety of London’s cyclists is going to be one of the key issues during the campaign, and the introduction of signalised pedestrian crossings has been ruled out as potentially delaying traffic, including cyclists, according to TfL.

In the case of Bow, TfL has come under intense criticism after it was revealed that it ignored recommendations in a report it had itself commissioned prior to installation of the Barclays Cycle Superhighway to introduce measures there designed to protect cyclists and pedestrians, as the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) had also urged.

The proposals, if adopted, come too late to save the two cyclists who lost their lives at Bow, let alone victims elsewhere in London, such as Deep Lee, who died under the wheels of a lorry at King’s Cross, also in October.

TfL is conducting a review of major junctions throughout London, including all those on the Barclays Cycle Superhighways, and the solutions proposed for Bow do give some glimmer of hope for improvements elsewhere such as King’s Cross and Elephant & Castle.

TfL and Boris Johnson do, however, have a long way to go to win back the trust of many of those who care about cycle safety in London, from whom a consistent refrain in recent weeks has been that actions speak louder than words.

We’ll be interested to hear the reaction of other campaigners, as well as politicians and ordinary London cyclists to these proposals.

In the meantime, Leon Daniels, Managing Director of Surface Transport at TfL, has said: “Our engineers have worked extremely hard over recent weeks to develop proposals designed to improve the safety of what is a key roundabout for cyclists.

“Many cyclists use the junction and we are committed to ensuring that they can negotiate it as safely as possible. We are now discussing potential improvements with key stakeholders and we remain absolutely focused on delivering improvements at the roundabout before the 2012 Games.

He added: “We also continue to explore the potential for longer term improvements in the area.”

5 user comments

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Perhaps the tide is turning. Whilst the proposals don't go as far as LCC would like they would be major advances. It would be good to see separate lights for cyclists for a 'headstart' installed at other junctions.

Such a shame that two people lost their lives before TfL changed its stance. I hope the relatives of the victims can take some solace from this.

posted by Coleman [329 posts]
12th January 2012 - 10:52

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"one of the two lanes of traffic that runs in each direction over the Bow Flyover get removed and be replaced with new dedicated bike lanes"

I can see that going down like a fart in a spacesuit.

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3108 posts]
12th January 2012 - 12:32

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Unfortunately, I can predict fairly confidently that motorists would set off when the "headstart" lights show green and possibly mow down cyclists who had stopped at the lights, as they currently do when the pedestrian "green man" lights turn to red, threatening to mow down pedestrians who are still crossing.

The only ways to make this junction safe are

1. Demolish the flyover and turn it into a light-controlled crossroads

or

2. Install lights at each exit to stop traffic and allow pedestrians and cyclists to cross the exit.

posted by JohnS [198 posts]
12th January 2012 - 13:15

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JohnS wrote:
Unfortunately, I can predict fairly confidently that motorists would set off when the "headstart" lights show green (snip)

This was my immediate thought too. Having the headstart green is a good idea I think, but you'd need enforcement cameras coupled with a decent sized fine for motorists caught.

Ooooh, me legs...

posted by Oh heck... [47 posts]
13th January 2012 - 12:23

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While it's fantastic to hear TfL starting to take these issues seriously, there is a question that has been bugging me:

What does the headstart offer that an ASL doesn't?

Unless I'm missing something, both work fine when you end up stopped at the junction, neither offer any safety improvements when the light is already green for traffic when you get there.

posted by Mr Will [88 posts]
13th January 2012 - 13:18

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