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.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.