Friday, 25 March 2011

Val Shawcross and John Biggs absolutely 'get it': Blackfriars Bridge is being handed over to a motorway design instead of being made safe to cycle and walk across

Below is a copy of the letter sent yesterday by Labour Assembly Members Val Shawcross and John Biggs to Transport for London about its proposed changes to the junction on the north side of Blackfriars Bridge. This representation is in addition to correspondence from Jenny Jones, Green Assembly Member.

Sent via email: STEngagement@tfl.gov.uk

Dear Mr Hall,

The Blackfriars Bridge Consultation

We are writing in our capacity as elected London Assembly Members in response to the Blackfriars Bridge scheme proposed by Transport for London (TfL). John Biggs represents the City of London, including the consultation area. \/al Shawcross represents Southwark, from which Blackfriars Bridge crosses the Thames, and is a lead Assembly Member on Transport issues. We have both received extensive correspondence on the matter.

Having fully discussed this at length with both TfL and concerned members of the public we are fully aware of the need to have a scheme in place when the new station opens. However we are equally aware of the urgent need for some parts of this proposal to be reviewed and appropriate changes made.

We appreciate the fact that Blackfriars Bridge Station will attract many more pedestrians; up to 10,000 pedestrians per hour would be using this station. We agree that it is important that pedestrians are accommodated within the plans. However to do so entirely at a cost to cyclists is completely unsupportable.

We are also very grateful for the opportunity to comment on the proposals as they will affect many individuals, in particular cyclists. We are concerned to see that TfL are referring to data on cyclist numbers dating from 2007. We do not believe consideration has been given to the increase in individuals using cycling as a mode of transport. This upward trend is set to continue and our personal observation at the bridge confirms that the number of cyclists using the bridge has grown dramatically over the last three years.



You will be aware by now from our meetings with you that we share a number of the cyclists’ concerns about the impact the proposals will have at Blackfriars Bridge and we would like TfL to seek solutions to our concerns listed below.

(1)The loss of cycle lane adjacent to the main entrance of Blackfriars Bridge

We understand that TfL are planning to remove the existing cycle lane to facilitate a wider pavement and to add a third car lane. We are fully aware that there is a capacity issue on the Bridge and that the Mayor would like to ease the flow of traffic. However, we feel that in light of the Mayor’s pledge to encourage people to cycle that the removal of the cycle lane is a backwards step and cannot be supported.

(2)We urge TfL to look at limiting the speed limit to 20mph on the Blackfriars Bridge and throughout the junction

We support a reduction of the speed limit to 20mph and believe that this would significantly reduce the number of collisions. This is not simply a significant safety issue but would reduce the delays and congestion arising from accidents.

(3) Decline in cycle safety

We are concerned about the overall safety of cyclists in the proposed scheme. We feel the implementation of the three car lane would greatly increase the risk for cyclists making a right turn into Queen Victoria Street. We are also concerned about the width of the cycle lanes on the Northbound stretch coming off the bridge, which is to be narrowed tol .5m. This may be a statutory legal minimum width but the volume of cyclists at these locations demands better facilities and more space to be given over to cycling. Cyclists are already too bunched and overcrowded at this location.

(4) Teardrop on Blackfriars Bridge

We recommend that TfL considers using the teardrop on Blackfriars Bridge to increase the road space available in the scheme - and therefore add back in cycling facilities. This would in our view, and that of many of our constituents, improve cyclist safety and reduce the risk of accidents.

Finally we are concerned that there is no plan to replace the pedestrian facilities crossing east west over New Bridge Street. We believe that there is already a strong pedestrian desire line at this location and it is a serious mistake to ignore the demand for safe crossing facilities here.

We urge TfL to look into our recommendations. We feel that if the current proposals made by TfL remain unchanged, Blackfriars Bridge will become very unsafe for cyclists.

Yours sincerely

Valerie Shawcross AM Lambeth and Southwark

John Biggs AM City and East

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

TfL engineers imply they will only improve junction for pedestrian​s and cyclists if private sector pays and only if motor vehicles don't have to slow down or queue a little.

Blackfriars Bridge Southbound near Stamford Street. Note the
caged bike route in the middle
Transport for London has responded to a suggestion by Jenny Jones, Green Party AM, about the southern junction at Blackfriars Bridge. I've coped the exchange below including TfL's comments.

The correspondence is about the junction between Blackfriars Bridge and Stamford Street and is in Southwark, which you can see here.


What's fascinating about the TfL response, when you look at it in combination with the northern junction responses which you can read about here, is that it clearly demonstrates, in my view, how Transport for London (and therefore the Mayor) does not want to prioritise safe, convenient crossings and junctions for either pedestrians or cyclists.

Instead, it suggests that the Mayor and Transport for London might be thinking of spending private money for pedestrian or cyclist improvements here but not allocating public money to help people use this junction more safely.

Even if this magic private sector money comes along, then the implication in this response is that TfL will also consider making changes here if those changes don't slow down motor traffic in any way. And we know that the majority of the motor traffic here is speeding because TfL's own data shows this as you can see here. But we also know that this issue is the same all across London. In Vauxhall, Brixton, Tottenham and Walthamstow, TfL is designing pedestrians and cyclists out of its junctions by insisting that junctions must be designed to allow motor vehicles to travel without queuing.

In other words, it's all about motor vehicles. None of whom may ever be allowed to queue. But pedestrians and cyclists are allowed to be put in dangerous, compromising places on the road just to ensure that people in motor vehicles don't have to face any slow-moving junctions.
Heading southbound, this is a four lane monstrosity with two sets of pedestrian crossings, where pedestrians are caged in cattle pens. Cyclists are supposed to squeeze through those pens as well using the National Cycle Network that runs between Upper Ground on the south bank and on towards London Bridge. People heading on foot south along Blackfriars Road, don't have any pedestrian crossings at all. In fact, they've never, in the last 23 years, even had a phase in the traffic lights to let them get across. Hence the situtation that you see thousands of men and women each day, standing like lemmings in their suits in the middle of the road as the HGVs rush by and they try to get to Waterloo. And further up the road, you see cyclists trying to turn across four lanes of fast-moving traffic to head towards Waterloo.

It's just another hopeless TfL junction that seems to discriminate against people on foot or on bikes by deliberately designing itself around the motor vehicle. And fast-moving motor vehicles at that, with plenty of lanes to chose from.

So, it's highly interesting to see a senior TfL officer's response to Jenny Jones's query about why this junction can't be improved for the vast majority of people who use it on foot or on bicycles.

I've copied the exchange below and you can read it for more details. But in summary, I read this as saying roughly this:
a) TfL knows this is a rubbish junction for pedestrians and cyclists. And would like to have done something about it. But it's decided to only do something if someone else pays for it, ie if it obtains so-called Section 106 money, which is money provided through a development. So, TfL is actually saying here, in my view, that it does not believe public money should be used to make this area safer and easier to cross for pedestrians or for cyclists.

b) The reference below to 'crossing times in parallel with the signalised junction at Southwark Street' is a technical response to a request to make it possible for pedestrians and cyclists to cross in one go between Upper Ground - which is the National Cycle Network route along the South Bank - and the southbound side of Blackfriars Bridge. This is possible at the moment via a narrow cattle pen where pedestrians and cyclists are crammed into a tiny space and have to wait for motor traffic before they can continue crossing. What I think TfL is saying here is that it can't consider changing the cattle pen or changing the phase of the traffic lights to allow people to cross in one go. This would massively enchance the junction for pedestrians and cyclists, allowing them to cross in one go, with enough space for each other and would slow down the motor vehicles. But no, not possible. Because it might mean the motor vehicles, rather than the people, have to slow down.
Have a read for yourself and see what you think.


From: Jenny Jones

To: Various TfL senior team leaders

Subject: Re: Cyclist crossing facilities at the southern end of Blackfriars Bridge

Hello

Thanks for this explanation.

I take all your points about the difficulties of funding and signal coordination, but I feel that cyclists have been, and are still, getting a raw deal on the Blackfriars Bridge scheme.

TfL has a duty to all road users and the changes we have discussed are cheap compared with the tragedy, the congestion and the expense of even one road death, which the gov costs at £1.4m. Any cost benefit exercise would find that it's a bargain NOT to have road deaths and maimings.

TfL can find the money to do this if it decides it's a priority and I think it is.

Best wishes

Jenny



------------------------------------

Jenny Jones

From: TFL senior team leader

Sent: Tue Mar 22 19:02:40 2011

Subject: Cyclist crossing facilities at the southern end of Blackfriars Bridge

Dear Jenny,
It was good to meet with you on Friday regarding Blackfriars Bridge. When we walked back across the bridge you asked me about improving the cycle facilities crossing Blackfriars Road on the south side.

In recent times a number of developments were proposed in that area including a new 6 star hotel and office blocks located close to the Stamford Street and Southwark Street junction. TfL were expecting to receive several million pounds of Section 106 contributions from the developers and in 2008/09 we initiated a major study to prepare a Blackfriars Road ‘vision’ document to support the regeneration of the area. This work was undertaken with input from Southwark Council, South Bank Employers Group and Better Bankside BID.
The vision document recommends (subject to a traffic impact assessment) the provision of a straight across crossing to replace the staggered facility and also the removal of the barriered cycle track in the middle of the carriageway. There are also proposals to provide enhanced pedestrian facilities at the Stamford Street junction arm with Blackfriars Road where currently there is no facility. A greatly improved pedestrian environment, including significant tree planting was proposed along the rest of Blackfriars Road between the bridge and St Georges Circus
Unfortunately the recession has had a major impact on the developments and improvements to the area. Therefore, the Blackfriars Road study has been placed on hold for the time being and elements will be progressed as and when S106 contributions are released. I understand that discussions are currently in progress in relation to the development site at 241 Blackfriars Road and there is the possibility S106 could be released in the next 12-18 months providing us with funding to consider making the improvements suggested.

In parallel, I have asked that a consideration is given to whether a straight-across crossing scheme could be progressed in advance of any of these developments (and their related funding contributions), but this would obviously have a financial implication for TfL which would need to be assessed in the light of the current constraints on budgets. We would also need to be clear about the feasibility of the scheme in isolation (for example, I understand that the crossing timing runs in parallel with the signalised junction 100m away at Southwark Street, so to make this change may not be a straight forward as it seems).

Monday, 21 March 2011

City's transport plan - how the City is starting to respond. The 20mph question.

All together now. Typical fast-moving City street
with bus overtaking bicycles, giving them
a couple of inches space. Fairly standard scene
in the Square Mile
I've been a bit silent on the City of London local implementation plan of late.

For those of you blissfully unaware of what I'm talking about, you can read the background here. Alternatively, you can make do with knowing this is the transport plan for the City of London for the next few years. It is the way that the City responds to the Mayor's Transport Strategy. And it is essentially a political document that sets out how the City judges it ought to handle things on its streets and transport networks.

Over 113 people responded to the Plan, including a number of organisation and companies. Over 100 of these focussed on issues relating to cycling. And from what I can tell, there were roughly 100 more responses than at the time of the last Plan a few years ago.

In any case, yesterday heralded the first of many discussions to be had about the Plan within the City's various committees.

Yesterday was the turn of the Streets & Walkways Committee. Who, now that they have approved a number of amendments to the Plan, hand over to the Planning & Transport Committee and thence to the Policy & Resources Committee. It is the latter that assigns the cash, as it were, and is therefore rather important.

The Streets & Walkways Committee was presented with four amendments for discussion. It had to approve whether or not these amendments should be included in the Local Implementation Plan. And these were they:

1 Control of inappropriately high vehicle speeds

2 Continuity of high quality cycle routes

3 Through- traffic restrictions; and

4 Road traffic casualty targets

For today, I'll deal solely with 1, ie innappropriately high vehicle speeds and the consideration of a 20mph speed across the City of London. Something we have been arguing is necessary for some time and something that over a hundred of you have written to support.

My own view is that the quality of discussion was very mixed. Some of the councilmen (the City's own brand of local councillor) showed informed and intelligent views (whether I agreed or not was another matter but the quality of debate tended towards intelligent points for the most part). Other councilmen struck me as having rather ill-informed views but a slightly bullying nature that on occasion carried the room. I have to say that I was impressed by how the chair, Martin Farr, kept the meeting to the point and negotiated some of the quirkier utterances of his colleagues. 

In any event, here's the good news: The Committee agreed that the Plan should include a proposal to examine a 20mph speed limit or one either a) covering the whole of the City except for the Transport for London road network or b) the whole of the City.

Gosh.

City officials pointed out the speed limit would help improve safety on the City's roads and help improve its poor air quality.


And then Michael Hudson, of Castle Baynard ward opined that the City's streets are in any case 'self-regulating' because they're so narrow. Try telling that to someone cycling along Bishopsgate, London Wall, Holborn Viaduct or around the gyratory between St Paul's and the Museum of London. He related that the Cycle Super Highways are on streets that don't have 20mph limits and I quote "[if 20mph is implemented] the majority of vehicles breaking the speed limit will be cyclists at they go down a hill". 


Oh dear. 


There were some sensible discussions around implementation. How would the City go about enforcing a 20mph limit? Would it put an enormous burden on the police, for example. It was agreed that the City of Lonodn is almost unique is having sufficient influence over its own police force (I paraphrase) to ensure a high level of enforcement. The fact that the City of London Police can monitor poor road user behaviour several days a week where other forces seem not to be quite so omnipresent on London's streets would back that up, I suppose. 


And there was more sensible discussion from other members as well about the fact that it would make sense to make all streets in the City of London 20mph, thereby including roads like Upper Thames Street and Farringdon Road which are operated by Transport for London rather than by the City itself. 


In any case, the vote towards a possible 20mph implementation was carried in the form of an agreement to look for a report which examines a possibly lower speed limit. The first of very very many steps, I suspect. But it's on the agenda at least. Which is good news. And will be incorporated into the draft local implementation plan, pending several further layers of approval. The fact that even TfL realises some of the City's streets (notably Blackfriars Bridge) should go 20mph is one step in the right direction. And there was useful discussion about how every borough around the City, with the exception of petrol-head Westminster, is going 20mph (in fact, there is already one 20mph area in the City, just next to Islington near the Barbican).


It's interesting to note that on Blackfriars Bridge, motor speeds are at 39mph for most cars at night and where 71% of all road collisions involve bicycles. On Tower Bridge, where the speed limit has been 20mph for some years, guess what, no one killed or seriously injured for several years. It must be time to give 20mph a try.

Blackfriars - consultation now open until April 15. Time to submit your thoughts

Following plenty of criticism about the scheme from people who walk and cycle through this junction, Transport for London is re-engaging on the design of northern junction and has issued a consultation page here. If you have already responded to TfL about this bridge, then it's time to send your email again I'm afraid. This time, please send your email to STEngagement@tfl.gov.uk before 15 April.
Basically, the plan is still the same. A bridge and junction at 30mph (currently only 20mph) with three lanes of traffic in both directions (currently only two lanes) and with inconvenient pedestrian crossings unless you're heading to or from the station.

Some of us met with Labour and Green Assembly Members Val Shawcross, John Biggs and Jenny Jones last week and then with TfL. These Assembly Members deserve credit for forcing TfL to consult properly on the scheme. However, it was clear at the meeting last week that TfL simply doesn't understand what people object to about this scheme.

TfL's representatives don't seem to understand there is no logic in installing new lanes for motor traffic or in increasing speeds from 20mph. They also don't seem to understand that pedestrians might need to cross the road other than simply to get to the station. They still seem to think that taking space away from 'traffic' would mean congestion. Even though that space isn't even there at the moment and we're just asking them not to increase the number of lanes. If you read here, you can see how their own road safety units tells them that the bridge should be 20mph but they are now proposing to increase the current 20mph limit in the junction to 30mph.

If you'd like to see what the plans look like, all the details are on the TfL page.

We've put together a critique of the plans here and a list of things we think should be re-considered

And please fire off your comments to STEngagement@tfl.gov.uk

Friday, 18 March 2011

Blackfriars consultation starts Monday. This isn't just about Blackfriars. It's about people walking and cycling in central London. Needs YOUR help

A few of us spent a very chilly morning on Blackfriars Bridge this morning together with Assembly Members Jenny Jones (Green), John Biggs (Labour) and Val Shawcross (Labour).

The Assembly Members had come to look at Blackfriars for themselves and to understand why cyclists are concerned about the new scheme. What we stressed to them is that the scheme makes Blackfriars bad for cyclists and pedestrians, it's not just about bicycles. If you'd like to see the scheme and an initial critique of it, click here for more details or read what The Guardian has to say about or maybe The Evening Standard.

The fundamental problem with this bridge is that the junctions either side are being designed to protect motor vehicle space at high speeds (on average way, way over the speed limit) at the expense of space for pedestrians and cyclists. And TfL is being given political direction by the Mayor to pursue that agenda. And for this scheme, you can read any other major junction in London. The same would be true for the new junction scheme at Brixton. Or for what's coming at Tottenham. Or for Vauxhall gyratory. The list goes on. If you don't like walking or cycling in these places, then it's time to get involved.

What we learned is that there is now cross party support from two parties to do something about this particular scheme (and to push for a review of the southern junction of the bridge as well).

We also learned that Transport for London will be formally consulting on this scheme from Monday for four weeks. We are going to need to encourage as many people as possible to respond to that consultation.

What's more, whether we like it or not, this scheme has gone political.

I've strived in writing this blog to stay out of politics. And I will continue to do so. But I feel uncomfortable having support from only Labour and Green politicians, when really this isn't about politics. It's about making this bridge and the junctions north and south of the bridge safer and more useable for everyone, not just people in cars. That's especially the case given that the overwhelming number of people using this bridge are not in cars in the first place.

My own gut instinct is that we need to get Conservative politicians to understand this is an issue as well. And my naive understanding is that the Conservatives might assume people who walk or cycle aren't necessarily their core constituents. One way or another, we need to make London's Conservative Assembly Members or MPs realise that their own voters are the people who walk and cycle over this bridge and that there are a tonne of bankers, lawyers, accountants and who knows what else walking and cycling through these junctions and that these people want the Mayor's traffic policy to represent them as people who walk and cycle in central London.

Question is whether or not we can pull that off in four weeks and whether people are prepared to pick up their pens and write to their MPs and Assembly Members of all political groups and to answer TfL's forthcoming (I hope online) consultation?

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Blackfriars - TfL responds. Again, TfL seems to totally miss the point. An annotated response to TfL's latest official view on Blackfriars Bridge scheme

TfL has sent an official response to many people who wrote to complain about the proposed scheme for the junction on the northern side of Blackfriars Bridge. If you'd like to see the scheme and an initial critique of it, click here for more details or read what The Guardian has to say about it or perhaps try the Evening Standard. Surely, we can't all be wrong and TfL knows best?

Below are TfL's comments in black and my annotations in blue. I should stress this are purely my personal comments with some support from other colleagues.

londonstreets@tfl.gov.uk

Our Ref: 1008408017/AJ


Date: 17.03.2011
 
Thank you for your e-mail to Jamila Barrett regarding the planned changes to the cycle lanes at Blackfriars Bridge. As I am certain you will appreciate, we have been receiving a lot of correspondence on this subject recently so please accept our sincerest apologies for the delay in responding to your query. In order to respond to your concerns satisfactorily please permit me to give an overview of the situation before responding to specific points of contention.


The drawing of the proposed changes which was circulated on the internet amongst cyclists’ groups - I think you'll find that the 'cyclists' were worried about this scheme for everyone who's not in a motor vehicle. It's not just about cycling. It's about the rights of all 'traffic' and that includes pedestrians and cyclists to navigate this junction safely and conveniently - was recently issued for stakeholder consultation by Transport for London (TfL). This plan proposed a cycle right turn facility from Victoria Embankment onto Blackfriars Bridge. This element is yet to be approved and subject to change following consultation. In order to put this scheme in context it has been superimposed onto the proposed Network Rail station works in this drawing.

The Network Rail proposal has been approved internally by TfL and City of London, as required under Network Rail’s Traffic and Works Obligation. The drawing for this wider scheme was used for initial engagement with key stakeholders in February 2010. At this initial engagement the City of London consulted the local cycle group Cyclists in the City. - I think that means me. The bright-eyed among you may have noticed that in February 2010, this website didn't exist.

A drawing has now been provided to outline the key features of both schemes and how they differ from the original highway layout prior to any station works.

TfL is acutely aware of the dangers to cyclists which this location has posed in the past. A safety audit has been conducted on both the Network Rail proposal and TfL’s cycle right turn element. Within these audits the safety of the proposals were assessed from the perspective of all road users including cyclists. These audits were carried out in line with TfL’s Road Safety Audit procedure.
In 2004 TfL redesigned the road layout on the bridge to better accommodate cyclists. Perhaps because your previous design was responsible for the deaths of two cyclists It is important to note that whilst proposals are in place to alter the junction due to the upgraded Network Rail station, the road layout on the bridge will not be changed. No-one's asking TfL to change the road layout on the bridge itself. Although a lot of people do think that motor traffic speeds on the bridge should be lowered and see this article for more details about that. Your own Road Safety Unit also thinks the speed limit should be lowered on this bridge.

When considering the proposed changes at the location various modelling programmes were used to assess the effects on all road users. Design development was carried out in the TRANSYT traffic modelling programme to establish the traffic impact of various options. This was supported by LEGION modelling which is a modelling software specifically designed to model the impact on pedestrian movements through and around a proposed junction. This software was used to define the location of the proposed crossings. VISSIM (a more detailed traffic modelling) was carried out in support of the TRANSYT modelling, which included the modelling of cyclists to establish the overall impact of the scheme.

In response to fears that TfL are prioritising drivers’ concerns over those of cyclists, the proposals are giving no more carriageway space to motor traffic, indeed on New Bridge Street the width available for general traffic reduces from 10.6m to between 9.6 and 9.2m wide. Where additional white lining is being provided on New Bridge Street southbound to define an additional lane, this is within the original carriageway width. In the original scheme the traffic behaved in a three lane flow (although this was not officially marked) and by marking in this way lane discipline will be improved, reducing the risk of collisions caused by weaving and side swipes. In other words, you are making the lanes narrower. Your own cycle design guides indicate that where a separate cycle lane is not provided, lane width should be increased to permit vehicles to pass cyclists with a comfortable gap. The organisation of traffic within the junction in this manner will also prevent very significant queuing. What queuing? There has been no significant queuing either northbound in the morning or southbound in the evenings, throughout the current layout.

Unfortunately the proposed scheme requires the removal of the southbound cycle lane outside the station entrance. This is required to accommodate a footway extension. Legion modelling of the expected pedestrian numbers entering and exiting the station has shown that for safety reasons an extension of the proposed footway is required. Furthermore the footway extension is required by DfT to provide sufficient space for station security measures. This is not an explanation – there is no iron rule that says pedestrian space must come from taking away cyclists’ space. No-one wants to remove space for pedestrians here. That space could equally be taken from motor vehicles instead of making cycling more difficult and blaming pedestrians for it when the real issue is TfL's apparent fear of queuing motor vehicles.

Unfortunately it is not possible to extend the carriageway on the western side to provide space to accommodate both the footway extension and the southbound cycle lane outside the station entrance as the tear-drop island is located over areas with limited load bearing due to shallow utilities including a large gas main. Really? So how come it has been possible to drive over this area for the last 18-24 months, without any weight restrictions being imposed, with just a narrow strip island between the two directions? As stated above, it is necessary to mark three lanes of motorised traffic to avoid long queues back through the junction at peak time and to prevent widespread congestion. Again, what widespread congestion? Although three lanes are marked, motorised traffic will not be using any more carriageway space than was originally allocated. Again, you are making the lanes narrower which contravenes your own design standards, the junction has worked perfectly well without the additional lane for nearly two years without any significant queuing, so why revert to that scheme now, just as cycling has taken off here?

TFL is not expecting to see an increase in the amount of traffic using this junction from the original levels in 2008 (prior to any station works). We would also expect to see more constant traffic speeds due to the proposed road markings improving the lane discipline of drivers. In that case, unless you expect a large increase in traffic here, you don’t need the extra lanes because the road functions entirely satisfactorily now with only two lanes.

We have considered requests to reduce the speed of the traffic by imposing a reduced speed limit through the location. 20mph zones are generally more suited to residential areas rather than the principal road network, of which Blackfriars Bridge is a part. While TfL has no objection to the principle of 20mph zones we do not believe that this would be suitable for Blackfriars Bridge. Why? “We do not believe” is not an explanation. And your own Road Safety Unit contradicts you. We've reported here on how the Road Safety Unit proposed in 2008 that the bridge be made 20mph and that there was a clear business case for doing so.

In a number of areas the proposals are giving carriageway space to cyclists. At the southbound New Bridge Street and westbound Queen Victoria Street stop line flares have been removed, reducing the carriageway width from 3 lanes to 2, resulting in right turning cyclists only having to traverse a single lane of traffic where previously they had to traverse two. Advanced Stop Lines (ASL’s) are also being provided for cyclists at all of the approaches to the junction and pedestrian crossings.

Unfortunately the reduction of the cycle lane from 2m to 1.5m northbound through the junction is required to accommodate the widening of the footway which is currently below standard. 1.5m cycle lanes are used throughout central London and are in line with TfL guidance for safe facilities. Here's a 1.5m cycle lane in action on Vauxhall Bridge. It is a terrifying place to cycle. Just because TfL maintains a fiction that this is a London standard does not mean it is. Your own guidelines recommend that you design cycle lanes to be wider than this and that they should be obligatory where possible.  Especially at a point where well over a third of the vehicles using the junction are bicycles. Whilst TfL would prefer to provide a wider cycle lane this is not possible given the spatial constraints of the scheme in this location.

With regards to concerns relating to pedestrian traffic across the junctions, the expected pedestrian movements have been modelled within a software package called LEGION. This was used to determine the location of the proposed crossings to ensure that they are on the most direct desire lines for pedestrians.
Unfortunately due to the expected numbers of pedestrians once the station has been upgraded it was not viable to maintain the temporary crossing in its current location on New Bridge Street. Modelling has shown that the two major desire lines for pedestrians are between the station entry/exit and the eastern and western side of New Bridge Street. It was not considered viable to maintain both crossings on New Bridge Street due to traffic capacity issues. One of those crossings currently doesn’t exist, while the one which crosses New Bridge Street does, is very heavily trafficked, and was a real-life desire line for very many pedestrians long before an official crossing was put there – pedestrians making a quick dash across to the central island, and then another dash to the opposite side in the short gaps between speeding vehicles. So you're removing the major pedestrian desire line because you think the only crossing people want is to and from the station. However, it should be noted that subway entrances 8 and 1 will remain open allowing access between Watergate and the Blackfriars pub.

Finally, we have received many comments relating to the construction of a ‘traffic island’, from the plans, which splits the northbound flow of traffic through the junction. This is not a traffic island. All traffic islands and footway extensions are marked in blue on the latest drawing. So it is confirmed that the cycle lane round the corner by Unilever House will retain the protection of an island. What is being thought of as an island is only proposed to be road marking (hatching) which will be at carriageway level.  Regardless, it is space that could and should be used to protect cyclists turning right into Queen Victoria Street. Instead, you're using the space to create an extra motor vehicle lane.

I hope that the above information has proved interesting to you and goes someway to alleviating your concerns. Please be assured that TfL takes the safety of everyone using the network as a priority. I thank you for your correspondence and apologise once again for the delay in responding to your queries. If there is any other matter which you think I may be able to assist with, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Yours sincerely

Alexander Jackson

Central London's bridges: Why won't TfL make it possible for you cycle home from the pub with your dad?

85% of motor traffic on these bridges travels at these high speeds
during the night when you might want to cycle home from the pub or
to an early shift at the hospital. Is that acceptable? (speed in mph of
85% of the motor traffic)
I've been reading a document published by the London Road Safety Unit recently. The document is entitled Report considering the benefits and feasability of implementing a 20mph speed limit on London's Bridges (Thames Crossings) and was published by the Unit in December 2008. The Unit is part of Transport for London's Street Management team.

The report surveyed inner London bridges over a 36 month period to July 31 2006 and recommends that TfL implement and enforce a 20mph zone across inner London's bridges.

Here's what's fascinating about the report:

TfL knows that bridges are a problem. In that 36 month period, there were a total of 160 collisions on the bridges between Putney and Tower Bridge with three deaths, 22 serious injuries and the remainder slight injuries.

And not at all surprisingly, vulnerable road users make up a very high proportion of those collisions - 75.7% of the collisions involved pedestrians, cyclists or powered-two-wheelers.

Interestingly enough, no-one was killed or seriously injured on Tower Bridge, where the motor speeds are lowest and there is already an enforced 20mph limit.

In Germany, they lower the speed limit on trunk roads in their cities at night. It makes the roads quieter for people who live nearby and want to sleep. It also prevents the roads turning into motorways.


In London, though, we are treated to night-time trunk roads that turn into high-speed race tracks. Look at Putney Bridge, which features a death-defying right hand turn across several lanes if you're following National Cycle Network route 4, heading north.

On Putney Bridge there were 30 collisions over the 36 month period. Some 85% of the traffic is moving at 34mph, averaged across the entire day. That 85%ile covers a multitude of sins, however. At night, when you might be cycling to your on-call shift at the hospital on-call or simply heading back from the pub at closing time, 85% of the motor traffic is whizzing over this bridge at between 38 - 42mph.

Focus solely on cycling for a moment, though:
85% of the motor traffic speeds averaged out across 24 hours
(north and southbound)


Blackfriars Bridge - 71% of all collisions involve people on bicycles. It is on the approach to this bridge that TfL wants to increase motor vehicle lanes from two to three, essentially to allow motor vehicles to travel faster and so they don't have to face a slight queue of about 60 seconds, which is about all I've ever had to queue when I've driven over Blackfriars Bridge at rush hour. Something I've done many, many times. Remember, this is a bridge where up to 36% of the traffic consists of bicycles.

Or how about Vauxhall Bridge where bicycles are up to 20% of the traffic and where 85% of the motor traffic is moving at 38-42mph per night over its many lanes. There are five motor vehicle lanes coming off this bridge southbound. Oh, and a bicycle lane that is not actually wide enough to fit your handle bars in.

Some more statistics about central London's bridges and bicycles: 50% of all collisions on Battersea Bridge incolve bicycles. 71% of all collisions on Blackfriars Bridge involve bicycles. 43% of collisions on London Bridge involve bicycles.

Perhaps TfL should start considering whether it's acceptable that central London's bridges are places where 85% of motor vehicles disregard the 30mph speed limit and where, at night, most motor vehicles are allowed to hurtle across at speeds over 40mph.

Would you encourage your dad to cycle back from the pub with you over Putney Bridge of an evening when you know almost every motor vehicles is hurtling across at 40mph and you have to negotiate a right-hand turn that takes you across multiple lanes of that fast-moving traffic?


Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Holborn Circus plans - submit your comments now

New look Holborn Circus - no bicycles in sight?
The City of London and Camden have launched their public consultation on a new scheme for Holborn Circus and you can see the detailed scheme here.

My understanding is that the scheme may still be four to five years away from becoming reality but it's important to submit comments on the proposals now. You can submit your comments by sending an email to holborncircus@cityoflondon.gov.uk


Aside from the fact that the drawings show not a single bicycle, my own reading of the scheme is below, with thanks to a number of other people who have also fed their own thoughts.

My response to the City's Holborn Consultation

• Entries to the circus will be cut from 6 to 4, by (a) diverting St Andrews Street so that traffic can enter it from the circus but can only exit it with a left turn into New Fetter Lane and (b) creating a short one-way stretch northbound-only at the mouth of Hatton Garden. These areas are shown as “potential shared surface carriageway” (pretty granite bricks).

• At present the only actual light-controlled pedestrian crossing is across Holborn by the Sainsburys building. All four roads on the junction will get a pedestrian crossing which should, in theory be a good thing. But if you look closely, you’ll notice that each of the crossings is slightly zigzagged, which means that pedestrians may have to cross in phases instead of in one go in a straight line. This seems to me to simply make things a bit less convenient for pedestrians.

• It would be useful to have a dropped kerb on the central reservation at the mouth of new Fetter Lane, so cycles could emerge from St Andrews St, cross the road to turn right and head on to Holborn. At the moment, the scheme will not allow cycles to come out of St Andrew’s St to turn right. They will have to turn left, then perform a U-turn back on themselves and come up New Fetter Lane.

• Hatton Garden will become one-way under this scheme, which reduces permeability, especially for cyclists. This goes against the City’s own draft implementation plan (Objective 5) “to increase permeability, connectivity and accessibility in the City”. The plan states that “the highway hierarchy approach does not apply to pedestrians, cyclists and public transport such as buses. For these groups it is appropriate to increase the connectivity and permeability of the City in order to allow them the most direct and intuitive journeys possible.” This is a key parallel route to Farringdon Road and will now be blocked to southbound cyclists. People cycling into the City from Islington and Camden will be forced to use the A-Road where they currently have the option of coming southbound on Hatton Gardens. In my opinion, a way should be found for cyclists to exist Hatton Gardens into Holborn Circus.

• The proposals do very little for cyclists going either east or west on Holborn Viaduct/ Holborn. Although the relatively wide cycle feeder lane is retained heading east along High Holborn, there are no proposals to make the west bound lane from Holborn Viaduct any easier to cycle along. At peak hours, these two traffic lanes and the bus stop completely block entrance to the Circus and cyclists are forced to swerve in and out of the lanes of queuing motor vehicles. The advanced stop feeder lane should at the very least be made wider and obligatory and the bus stop on the south side moved further back from the junction to improve access to the Circus for all vehicles. In fact, according to these plans, none of the advanced stop feeder lanes on this scheme will be obligatory. They should all be made wide enough to accommodate the increasing number of bicycles using this route and be made obligatory.

• The exit from the Circus into Holborn has been considerably narrowed, in effect creating a new pinch point that will squeeze the available space for vehicles. That means that cyclists will essentially have to play chicken with impatient and faster-moving motor vehicles. There is absolutely no need to take up so much space with new paving here and greater consideration should be given to allowing cycles to exit the Circus and still leave enough room for motor vehicles to pas them safely. Furthermore, the bus lane that currently heads west along Holborn at this point appears to have been removed. I hope it will be retained.

• Shutting off the direct exit to Holborn from St Andrews St will create some secondary effects with motor traffic. There is quite a high volume of taxi and private-hire traffic from the offices of Deloittes and Goldman Sachs (indeed there is a large taxi-rank outside Goldmans in St Bride St) which will now either have to go through New St Square, which is a far less suitable road for a volume of motor traffic, or, the taxis will likely turn left into Fetter Lane, go down until the end of the reservation where the “ring of steel” chicane is, and do a U turn.

• New Fetter Lane is shown as meeting Holborn with a normal junction. For the last few years, that junction has been a shared space pavement with a cycle gap. Is the City proposing to re-open that junction to motor vehicles?

• There is no evidence of any additional cycle parking in the area. This is an area that is completely lacking in suitable cycle parking infrastructure.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Blackfriars - TfL might actually be listening. Update from Val Shawcross just received. Some positive news.

A response from Val Shawcross last night.

It's an interesting response. I do worry that Val may have slightly misunderstood what a lot of people are saying, though, namely that no-one wants to take away space from pedestrians.

From the many copies of emails I've seen to TfL, people actually want to encourage TfL to keep one of the existing pedestrian crossings that it plans to remove (ie it seems to think of the junction primarily in terms of pedestrians exiting and entering the station, not in terms of the many people heading in other directions) and secondly that the addition of an extra vehicle lane in each direction will make it perilously difficult to manoeuvre across this junction on a bicycle. Those are the key points.

The fact that the few existing bicycle lanes are either removed or remain at a paltry 150cm is a further issue given the sheer volume and relative share of bicycles on this junction. I very much hope TfL can be made to realise that motor traffic should be not be getting more space here but that the additional space it is proposing to add to the current scheme should be allocated to pedestrians and people using bicycles rather than private motor cars.

After all, bicycles and pedestrians are also 'traffic' but we need space to manoeuvre that is not threatened by three lanes of fast-moving, dangerous motor traffic.

"Dear Danny,

Blackfriars Bridge scheme

I am writing on behalf of Val Shawcross AM regarding your concerns about the Blackfriars Bridge scheme. Val and John Biggs AM met with Andrew Miles, Nigel Hardy and Toyin Odinusa who are three key officers from TfL, yesterday (9 March 2011).

TfL would like you to know that the current layout is an interim scheme and they are working towards a new scheme, which is reasonably urgent as it needs to be open in time for the end of this year. This scheme is being conducted by Network Rail and Colin Buchanan (CB) in communication with TfL. In yesterday’s meeting TfL promised Val and John that there would be a TfL web page which will contain all the information about the Blackfriars Bridge scheme in the next few days. Also, TfL have stated further that they will open up a public consultation for the month following the web page being publicly activated. Val will be making a response on the consultation on your behalf, but also encourages you to make comments directly to TfL’s web page. We will also email you the TfL’s web page about the consultation, when it is activated.

Val would like you to know, that she and John went over the complaints you sent and looked in detail at the issues you raised. Val understands TfL’s need for more pedestrian crossings, but would like you to know that she and John challenged TfL about the loss of cycling facilities and have asked them to consider reducing the speed limit of the cars around Blackfriars Bridge. They have also asked TfL to see if they could look into the potential reworking of the teardrop shape island. TfL have confirmed that they will look into this and that they are investigating the costs involved.

Jenny Jones AM has been actively looking into this issue as well and has informed Val she is going to be doing a site visit with TfL and Val is hoping to go.

I hope you find this update helpful and we will continue to keep you updated with further information Val receives from TfL on this.

Please do not hesitate to contact me using my details below if you require further information.

(Please note I will be away on annual leave from 21-25 March, so it may take me longer than normal to respond).

Kind Regards "

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Blackfriars and TfL. Why is there no formal response yet and is TfL meeting is obligations to all forms of traffic on this scheme?


Queen Victoria Street - Network management.
Is it only for motor vehicles and people on bicycles
just have to squeeze in and make do? 
My letter last night to Jenny Jones, Val Shawcross and John Biggs:

"Dear Jenny, Val and John

Many thanks for your various responses to my email about Blackfriars Bridge and the northern junction design.

I wanted to ask whether TfL has given any formal detail on its intention to extend the consultation period on this scheme. I haven't heard anything specific on this matter only TfL's vague intentions so far. I know of no-one else having a formal response from TfL either.


I also wanted to let you know about two further things: a) TfL seems to be embarking on an internal witch hunt about the criticism b) I think there is a deep flaw in TfL’s intepretation of the Traffic Management Act in the context of this junction and many other London schemes.

TfL’s response to public criticism on this scheme
I have heard informally this week from a number of people who work for various London public bodies and have been involved with the Blackfriars scheme. I do not want to mention the individuals concerned as the nature of what they are saying is slightly sensitive.


They are suggesting that TfL is conducting several levels of inquiry. It doesn’t seem that TfL is inquiring about the actual nature of the scheme or focusing on any criticisms of the scheme at all. However, people are suggesting that TfL is looking to pinpoint who or which authorities are responsible for the scheme being criticised.

I find that scandalous as TfL's first responsibility should surely be to engage with and listen to its client base, ie the people who use the bridge and who have complained to TfL, and should not be to set out on what in my opinion feels like a political blame game.


Andrew Miles’s response on 28 February and its implications for TfL’s obligations on this scheme
I was surprised by the one response from TfL that was forwarded by some of you and written by Andrew Miles, Government Relationship Manager dated 28 February 2011 in which he stated: "Reducing the number of lanes on the bridge would greatly restrict traffic movement and lead to significant queuing, potentially over a wide area". One person close to the scheme told me (I paraphrase) that: "the scheme has to fit the [traffic] models and cycling has drawn the short straw in the model.

I am not a professional transport campaigner but from my knowledge of publicly available information, what this boils down to is a model of 'network assurance'. If I understand correctly, this is TfL's obligation under the Traffic Management Act 2004 to:

1. Ensure the expeditious movement of traffic on its own road network; and
2. Facilitate the expeditious movement of traffic on the networks of others


What I am beginning to feel is that TfL's interpretation of this obligation means that it regards 'traffic' exclusively as motorised traffic.


How else would it be possible, for example, for Mr Miles to publicly assert that the models show significant queuing over a wide area and refer to that only in the context of vehicles? Bicycles are vehicles and they tend not to have to queue as they don't take up very much space. And pedestrians are not vehicles and yet, as I understand, the Act specifically states that "'traffic' includes pedestrians", ie TfL has an obligation to look at this scheme and all TLRN schemes in the context of ensuring a safe and smooth-flowing network for people whether they are on foot, on a bicycle or in a motor vehicle.

Mr Miles response, by contrast, implies that TfL understands its obligations are to avoid traffic queues, something which is of no relevance to the other traffic types that have equal right to smooth and safe movement through its junctions.

Furthermore, TfL's own guidance on its obligations under the Act states that:

"Where the volume of cyclists exceeds approximately 20% of the traffic volume on any one approach they may have a disproportional effect on modelling results and their influence may need further attention. For this reason it is encouraged to ensure classified traffic surveys explicitly include cyclists."

This is one such approach. Cyclists make up 36% of the northbound traffic volume through this junction during the morning peak from 7-10am, according to TfL Surface Transport data. And yet in Andrew Miles's response, there is no mention of TfL having considered the effect of cycling on this scheme. In fact, almost the only mention of cycling has been to express how there isn't sufficient room for both cyclists and pedestrians.

Rather than pitting cyclists and pedestrians against each other and making us fight over the space left behind after two new lanes have been added for ‘traffic’, I would suggest TfL needs to go back to the spirit of its network management obligations, to give due regard pedestrians and bicycles as part of network, and to build schemes that nurture and protect those vulnerable road users. Because providing an optimal network for those vulnerable road users is surely just as much a part of TfL's network obligations in the spirit of the Traffic Management Act as securing "a neutral effect on vehicle flow [by which it is clear that TfL is thinking solely about motor vehicles] across the bridge".

With best wishes"

Monday, 7 March 2011

Aspiring City politician suggests cyclists are a danger to pedestrians but no mention of cars or lorries. What are the real numbers?


This is the text, copied word-for-word from the hand-delivered election pitch of Virginia Rounding, who is standing for the position of Common Councilman (similar to a councillor in any other borough) in the ward where I work and where I have a 'corporate' vote. Councilmen tend not to have a political affiliation and it's most unusual to see one set out their views on local matters as honestly as Virginia Rounding has done. When I wrote to my local councilmen about the City of London transport plan, four of the seven had non-fuctioning contact details and only one of them bothered to respond. So much for democracy in action in the Square Mile. So I have to at least give Virginia Rounding some credit for actually attempting to engage with her electorate.

But what I can't work out is whether Virginia Rounding is generally supportive of or opposed to people cycling. Hands-up, I haven't done her the courtesy yet of asking and I will do. But on her twitter site Ms Rounding does actually refer to the insanity of the new gyratory on Blackfriars by linking to a recent Londonist article about how the new design is going to make this junction even more dangerous for cycling.

But then she writes about cycling on her campaign flyer in a way that I personally find extremely antagonistic.

As someone who walks, drives, buses, tubes, trains and cycles in the City of London, I'm far more aware of the conflict between me and motor vehicles than the "conflict" between me and cyclists, that she suggests in her campaign. When I'm walking around the City, it's the fast-moving motor traffic that worries me. Not the bicycles. On her list of issues, there's no mention of cars or HGVs. Just bicycles.
And what on earth is she saying about cyclists jumping red lights and self-inflicted danger? Her statement implies that it is acceptable for an elected official to openly campaign on the suggestion that that red light jumpers deserve whatever's coming to them. I don't condone jumping red lights but I think it's highly undesirable for a City of London political candidate to imply that cyclists inflict casualties upon themselves on the City's roads.

Let's just remember that 0.3% of pedestrian road casualties in London are caused by bicycles but more specifically, let's just remind ourselves what form of transport is the biggest threat to pedestrians in the City of London.

City of Police sent me these figures which form the pie chart above. They show that by far the biggest threat to pedestrians in the City are HGVs and large public vehicles, such as buses. Between 1 September 2007 and 1 August 2010, 3 people were killed in road incidents in the City; a further 52 were seriously injured and 278 slightly injured.

219 of these were injured by 'own actions' which includes stepping into the path of a vehicle, crossing on a red signal etc. Given that 87% of all other casualties involve motor vehicles, you can assume a similar ration of these injuries involve, er, motor vehicles.

But let's just remind ourselves how dangerous cyclists are to pedestrians. 15 incidents were due to the actions of cyclists. That compares with 19 injured by the actions of a car driver. And a total of 31 people were smacked in the head by the wing mirror of a bus or HGV. In fact, 62 people were hit by either a bus or HGV; eight  by a licensed taxi driver.

So, I wonder if Virginia Rounding knows about these statistics. 

Saturday, 5 March 2011

From the archives: Closing Blackfriars to motor traffic would ease traffic congestion

In all the recent back and forth about Transport for London's plans to turn the junction at the northern end of Blackfriars Bridge into a six lane motorway (three in each direction), I had completely forgotten this post by the (I hope) temporarily absent Real Cycling blog which cited a 2008 study which asserts that:

Closing Blackfriars Bridge and its approach roads to traffic (the black-striped sections in the illustration on the right) would actually improve the overall traffic flow in London. That's the counter-intuitive suggestion in a 2008 paper by academics Hyejin Youn, Hawoong Jeong and Michael Gastner.

Hats off to CycleofFutility blog for digging this one out of the archives.

Remember that TfL is asserting that not having an extra two lanes on this junction "would greatly restrict traffic movement and lead to significant queuing, potentially over a wide area". TfL is of course referring only to motor traffic, something which it seems to regard as infinitely more important than any other form of movement. The fact that those additional two lanes have been absent for over two years and their disappearance has never led to any significant queuing over a local, let alone wide, area seems to have escaped its notice.

Isn't it refreshing to realise that there are plenty of people who don't share TfL's apparent obsession with the bogeyman of "significant queuing over a wide area" and are prepared to consider how more radical solutions might actually make conditions better for people on bikes and for people in motor vehicles. I'm not anti motor vehicles. I've owned several. But I don't feel I should have the right, just because I'm in a motor vehicle, to drive anywhere I want, whenever I want, at more-or-less whatever speed I want.

There's a very serious point made in CycleofFutility's blog about all of this. In another entry, he calculates that, at any point between 7-10am, there are 17 bicycles crossing Blackfriars Bridge and heading north.

Guess how much space those 17 people get at the junction? 150 centimetres. Cars and taxis combined, make up less of the traffic than those people on bicycles. And yet they currently get a whopping 10.1 metres. And TfL doesn't think that's enough. It's proposing no change for cycling but a whole extra lane for motor vehicles. At some point, I do hope there will be enough of us on our bicycles prepared to vote and force for change. Because whether you like it or not, if you think road conditions in London are rubbish for cycling, then you've just made a political statement. TfL's not budging on this yet because a bulk of politicians still think motor transport is the only way to go. It's up to us to make them realise they're wrong about that.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Two-and-a-half bikes to every motor vehicle: Blackfriars and why this bridge needs space for cycling



A shot from a single traffic light sequence on Blackfriars Bridge this morning, heading north over the bridge and into the gyratory system.

It is exactly on this point where the camera is sited that TfL is planning to add a third lane so that motor vehicles can travel faster through this junction, making it significantly more dangerous for both cyclists and pedestrians. And yet, as this shot shows, in one single traffic light green phase there are 2.5x as many people on bicycles as motor vehicles.

I think this video very usefully demonstrates why this gyratory scheme shouldn't take people for granted just because they're on bicycles.

You might also notice just how narrow even the existing bike lane is at this point and how some of the motor vehicles clip into the bike lane and every one of them that isn't in the far lane strays incredibly close to the bicycle area. Surely time to widen the facility for bicycles here?

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Vauxhall Bridge - even outside the congestion charge, cycling has more than trebled on this bridge

Vauxhall Bridge southbound - heaven for cars?
Looking slightly outside the City of London, here's the scene at Vauxhall Bridge at rush hour one morning last week. The view shows the five southbound lanes coming off the bridge and into the gyratory.

Vauxhall Bridge is interesting. It is one of only two zone 1 bridges that sit outside the congestion charge area. So you'd expect it to be full of motor traffic dodging around the outside of the congestion charge. And it is. It's a nasty place, full of motor vehicles at very high speeds. When I drive around this junction, it's hard not to get pushed along at up to 45 or 50mph on this gyratory.

The view above shows four lanes of cars, one lane of buses. And if you look very hard, a tiny bicycle lane. It's a horrible bicycle lane, exemplified in this excellent video showing the bridge as you head towards the junction (pictured above) by gaz545 below.



The southbound lane is ridiculously narrow. No doubt, TransportforLondon wanted to ensure that bicycles shouldn't 'restrict the traffic flow'. This is the terrifying line they are spinning about Blackfriars Bridge where they want to reinstate two new lanes of traffic and a very similarly-useless advisory cycle lane. This bike lane is frankly life-threatening. Legally, motor vehicles are not obliged to stay out of this lane because it's only an advisory space. So TfL has created a facility for cycling, which is useless in reality, in fact, positively terrifying in reality, but from a legal or public relations perspective, the facility allows TfL to claim it is taking the needs of cycling into account. More of this to follow on Blackfriars Bridge at this rate. It's depressing really.

Back to Vauxhall, though. Unless you want to use the shared use pavement/cycle facility shown in the above picture to get to the spot just under where I'm taking the picture and turn right towards Wandsworth or Clapham,you are expected to sprint across up to four lanes of fast moving traffic and stay in one of those lanes for several hundred metres, surrounded on all sides by fast-moving metal. Alternatively, if you're going straight on, you're highly likely to be hooked by a vehicle turning left. While it's nice that there's a shared use option it involves two separate crossings to go straight on and four separate crossings to turn right. By car, that would be one and two traffic lights, respectively. So it's twice as easy to travel by car. Oh, and cars get green lights for a bigger chunk of time than bikes and pedestrians. You can often wait over 2.5minutes for a single crossing to change to green as a pedestrian here, depending on the traffic light cycle. 

Vauxhall Bridge - bicycles vs cars as percentage of traffic
at rush hour (7-10am north, 5-8pm south)
Given the horrible nature of the bridge, it's quite a surprise to see that 20% of all vehicles crossing the bridge southbound between 5pm to 8pm are bicycles. That's up from only 6% in 1990. Cars, meanwhile are down from 69% of the traffic to 50% in the southbound rush hour. Northbound in the mornings, bicycles make up 20% of the traffic (7am to 10am) and cars only 40%.

I'm surprised only because, given the dreadful nature of the southbound cycle lane, I actually go out of my way to avoid using this bridge to cycle south. Northbound, I can cycle along in the bus lane, so I'd have expected decent cycle volumes. But it's intriguing to see the same percentage of people putting up with the abyssmal southbound lane. I'm obviously a bit of a wimp when it comes to cycling on this bridge.

There are 2,952 private motor cars heading north in the mornings. That's compared with 1,456 bicycles.

Shown in percentage terms, something interesting is happening if you look at the trajectory of cars vs bikes. Even this dismal bridge, which lies outside the congestion charge, is heading towards a situation where there will be a greater percentage of bicycles than private cars at rush-hour. And if those trajectories are continued, it is only a couple of years before bikes might surpass cars here in the rush-hours too.

Even if bikes do outnumber cars here one day, I'll still remain terrified of manoeuvring into the right hand lane here, which is what you need to do if you want to turn towards Stockwell or Wandsworth on the gyratory. Throwing myself against four lanes of cars on a bicycle is simply not my idea of fun, I'm afraid. And that probably goes a long way to explaining why most Londoners never cycle around places like Vauxhall. And why most of them will continue to use their cars rather than trog around here on two wheels, powered by their own legs.