Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Blackfriars - new road safety audit concludes what thousands of you who protested already know: £1 million was spent to make this brand-new 'cycle-friendly junction' design MORE dangerous to cross the road and to cycle through

Blackfriars Bridge bike lane towards Queen Victoria Street at rush hour.
In the Netherlands, the bus and the people on bikes
would be in separate traffic streams. Here, we stick people in front of the bus. Bonkers.
Back in 2011, this blog was the first to highlight the insane designs proposed by Transport for London for its new junction design at the northern bank of Blackfriars Bridge.

At the time, my impression was that the new scheme was: "designed to allow cars to travel faster through the junction on more lanes. To make it less convenient for pedestrians. To make cycles part of the traffic flow, where they have to leg it across multiple lanes of relatively faster moving traffic than now." Transport for London declared that all was well. Scandalously, Transport for London tried to claim that the Blackfriars junction design was safe for cycling and for pedestrians because "it's not atypical for central London". It might well not be atypical for central London but that doesn't make it right.

I pointed out some key concerns:

Removal of the pedestrian crossing means people running across a two-lane blind corner


The removal of the pedestrian crossing east to west across New Bridge Street. This is a major desire lane and people cross it all the time. AsEasyAsRidingABike blog produced an excellent video which you can see above that shows how - where there used to be a pedestrian crossing - people now have to race across two lanes of traffic around a blind corner to cross the road. Transport for London ignored our protests and claimed "the junction outside of the station has had to be redesigned to accommodate these hugely increased pedestrian flows."

Transport for London has since carried out a road safety audit on exactly this issue. And the results are fascinating. The safety audit hints very clearly that TfL was wrong to remove the pedestrian crossing. Which is exactly what the thousands of people who came together to protest here last year wanted TfL to hear. The audit says this: "We are concerned that a high number of pedestrians were witnessed crossing at this location without the assistance / protection of a crossing facility [you know, the crossing that used to be there but TfL removed). The lack of pedestrian crossing facility at what appears to be a significant desire line  increases the risk of conflict as users cross between traffic with an increased risk of being obscured." What does the road safety audit recommend? It recommends putting the pedestrian crossing back.

You couldn't make this up.

It gets worse.

London Cycling Campaign suggested what this junction
should look like and explained why. 
Concern number two: Cycling north over the Bridge, if you want to cycle towards the Square Mile, you now have to make your way across three (used to be two) lanes of fast-moving motor traffic to turn towards Queen Victoria Street. And you then have to wiggle your way between lorries to get to the advanced stop line. I was fiercely critical of this road layout. The London Cycling Campaign was too. The Campaign put forward an alternative suggestion - a vision that would have included the pedestrian crossing and would have enabled 'risk-free right turns' at this point.

The road safety audit has concluded what bloggers, protestors, London Assembly Members and the London Cycling Campaign were saying right from the start: "The Audit Team are concerned that the mandatory cycle lanes guide cyclists to the left of the carriageway without any clear route towards Queen Victoria Street. This results in users performing various manoeuvres including crossing three lanes of traffic within a very short section in which other traffic is often changing lanes, increasing the risk of side-swipe type collisions between cyclists and other traffic. Cyclists performing this manoeuvre also ignored the stop lines and crossing facilities in order to ‘beat traffic’. The potential for conflict between cyclists and other traffic is perceived to be significant." The audit concludes that Transport for London should "Provide additional facilities to enable cyclists to access Queen Victoria Street safely". Spot-on, this is exactly what campaigners were saying right at the start.

Here's a picture of what the junction looks like
now and what's wrong with it. It seems the road safety auditors agree.
Source: London Cycling Campaign
Pictured left is an image of the junction as it looks now and the London Cycling Campaign has annotated the image to show all the problems that face people cycling here. All of these problems are raised  in the independent road safety audit.

The audit concludes that Transport for London must (among other things):

a) Provide additional facilities to enable cyclists to access Queen Victoria Street safely
b) Provide additional facilities to enable cyclists to access Victoria Embankment safely.
c) Ensure that provision of pedestrian facilities encourages users to safely cross [New Bridge Street, where the pedestrian crossing has been removed].
d)  Clarify the layout at the entry to Queen Victoria Street (where the road is so narrow that cars often enter on the wrong side of the street or try to overtake cyclists, realise they can't and then swerve either into pedestrians or into cyclists).

Each of these points was raised by the London Cycling Campaign, by bloggers and by the thousands of people who turned up to protest.

Even Boris Johnson knows there's still a problem here: "I do think is that more work needs to be done on cycling over Blackfriars Bridge and the accessibility of cycling over Blackfriars Bridge”, he said.

Transport for London has changed a lot since the travesty of Blackfriars Bridge. Now it has no excuse not sort this junction out once and for all. And having blown over £1million getting it wrong the first time, let's hope they can get it right this time.

For more background on Blackfriars and what went so wrong, see the Blackfriars Bridge timeline