That post was prompted by the death, under a lorry, of Alan Neave on 15 July, in High Holborn, near the junction with Kingsway, at the place marked by the red dot on the map.
In the weeks leading up to Alan Neave's death, the police had been actively ticketing cyclists attempting to use the Vernon Place and Bloomsbury Way bus lane. The borough of Camden and Transport for London had always maintained that cyclists could not use this bus lane, as it is not wide enough for buses and cyclists to share.
I called, in July, on these authorities, and, in particular, on the Mayor's Cycling Commissioner, Andrew Gilligan, to take emergency action to create, through some sort of temporary infrastructure, not unlike that put in place for the Olympic lanes, a safe route for cyclists through this area, which has some of the highest cycle flows seen anywhere in London. They, and he, chose not to do this. Gilligan has persistently claimed, in response to such calls, that the number of cyclists being killed in London does not constitute an emergency, and that hurried action ("panic measures" as he terms it) would be counterproductive.
On 7 November Francis Golding, distinguished architect and former head of the Royal Fine Arts Commission, was killed by a left-turning coach at the junction of Southampton Place and Vernon Row, part of the same one-way system. So I need to add a blue dot to my map to mark his death:
I also pointed out in my earlier post how there is a confounding problem, that the cycle route that I helped to devise, with Camden Cyclists, in the 1990s, via Great Russell Street, Bury Place, a short contraflow segregated track in High Holborn, then Newton Street, and Great Queen Street (shown with small orange dots on the map), which was designed to separate some cycle journeys from the Holborn one-way system, had been blocked by long-term building works with the provision of no alternative. Here is the blockage, looking towards the southern part of Bury Place from Bloomsbury Way:
Then this week, a new comment appears on that earlier blogpost, from Tim Brooke:
Thanks for the article, David.
Interestingly, I was given a £50 FPN [Fixed Penalty Notice] this morning on that very spot on Bury Place that your photograph shows (and where the long-term building works are still occupying pride of place), having cycled on the short stretch of pavement connecting Bury Place to Bloomsbury Way. Police hiding round side of Kier hoarding.So, not only have we had police fining cyclists for trying to avoid the one-way system by using the bus lane in Bloomsbury Way, we've had them fining cyclists for trying to avoid it by using the disrupted cycle route in Bury Place. It's as if the police, Camden and TfL between them are deliberately laying a huge trap for cyclists in Holborn, trying to force them to their deaths, pushing them through a road system with a terrible safety record.
It is illegal, and it should be, for cyclists to cycle on the pavement.
But it should also be illegal for a local authority to allow a cycle route to be blocked without providing an equally safe temporary alternative.
Camden are supposedly a cycle-frienldy council, and have in the recent past done exemplary work in creating an alternative route for cyclists while an established route is closed for works, at Royal College Street:
I have learned, in conversations with Camden Cyclists' committee, that cyclists will soon be allowed to use the Bloomsbury Way westbound bus lane. But the lane will be segregated off with wands in the road (things like thin and flexible bollards), and it will still be too narrow for cyclists to overtake buses, or vice versa, and cyclists will be banned from overtaking buses by straying through the wands into the opposing lane. The Camden officer responsible for this scheme is reported as saying that if cyclists are seen doing this, cyclists will be banned from the bus lane again.
So it seems like cyclists are dying on the major roads in central London, and the response of the authorities, rather than providing rationally-designed, safe and practical infrastructure that cyclists can use without breaking the law, is consistently to blame cyclists for the problems and criminalise them at every possible opportunity for merely trying to use the road system in the best and safest way they can find.
Frankly, I'm sick of it. So are lots of other people.
It doesn't help that the first thing that it seems to enter Boris Johnson's head whenever there is another cycling death is some new, counter-evidential argument to attempt to transfer blame for the road danger that is killing them on to cyclists themselves. In November, after the deaths of six cyclists in two weeks, including Francis Golding, his response was to blather some rubbish about headphones. Quite sickening.
This, Mr Gilligan, this whole accumulation of deaths, injuries, insults, and institutional incompetence, is why cyclists and others are lying down in roads to protest. We know you have some good ideas, but there's a huge back-story here, a lot of it is associated with your boss, and we're not seeing the changes we need yet.
Here's Vernon Place looking east, with the contraflow bus lane that cyclists will soon by allowed to use, but not overtake buses in.
Obviously, if Camden do what they say they will, and add these wands to the bus lane at its existing width, cyclists will overtake stopped buses by going over the solid white line, if there is nothing coming towards them in the opposing lane. Why shouldn't they? But I think that these wands will themselves be an extra hazard.
Andrew Gilligan has spoken elsewhere of segregating combined bus and cycle lanes (not necessarily contraflow ones) off from the rest of the traffic with wands. I find this concept hard to fathom. If the lane is not wide enough to combine cyclists and buses in, in parallel, with a good margin for overtaking, then enclosing the whole thing with wands is surely going to create more problems. If it is wide enough, then the wands are in the wrong place. They should be between the cycle flow and the motor flow, in other words, between separate bus and bike lanes. Or alternatively there should be no separation, but the cyclists must be allowed to undertake at the bus-stops with bus stop bypasses. Cycle flows have a totally different dynamic to bus movements. They are about the same average speed, but mix very badly, because of the stop-start character of buses. We have huge numbers of buses in London, and substantial numbers of cyclists (in certain places). Neither of these are going to change quickly. We have to sort this problem out.
I'll look at some further aspects of the practicality of TfL's bike plans for central London, which were announced this week, in another post. For now, it seems that in Holborn they are still intent in trapping cyclists in a weird cat-and-mouse game. If the police actually enforce the "no overtaking" rule (which is hard to imagine), cyclists will not have a practical route, and they will have to use the deadly one-way system again. Trying to prevent cyclists and buses from passing each another is idiotic.
Fortunately, there are other people with better ideas. I draw your attention to the Clerkenwell Boulevard proposal by Andrea Casalotti. I think this deserves some serious consideration. He has considered the east-west corridor from Old Street roundabout to Bury Place, the most cycled route in London, with conditions, that are, as he says, currently "scandalously disrespectful to people who cycle". He proposes making it a bus and cycle (and pedestrian) only corridor, with continuous separation of cyclists from buses with a single bi-directional track. The removal of turns by other vehicles on to and off the route means that some traffic lights could be removed (though I'm not sure so many could be removed as the eight he claims), speeding both bus and cycle journeys. They would also be speeded, of course, by being separated from one another, and having the cars, lorries, vans and taxis removed from the corridor. This traffic would be displaced to the inner ring road: Euston Road, Pentonville Road and City Road.
|Conditions on "Clerkenwell Boulevard": "Scandalously disrespectful to people who cycle"|
We are not proposing removing motor vehicle access to any destination, but some motor routes would become longer. However, experience in the Netherlands and elsewhere shows that simplifying networks and reducing the number of possible motor routes and open intersections can actually make journeys faster for motor vehicles. Certainly any claim that we have the perfect solution in Central London at the moment would be generally laughed out-of-court. We are constantly told that road space in London is a limited resource, so why do we persist in using it so inefficiently? These roads are not working well now for anybody, and cyclists and pedestrians are coming off the worst. In too many cases they are being killed. More widely, there is a denial of travel choices. Contrary to what our Cycling Commissioner thinks, we do have an emergency, in so many ways. Let's have a radical rethink.