Are we being sold a fairytale?

It’s approaching the time of year where another set of Barclays Cycle Superhighway routes are going to be opened. Work has already been underway for several weeks, with the roads being re-surfaced and blue paint being laid. In some places it has even meant a remodel of the road design, reducing 2 lane sections of road into one.

The cycle superhighways are meant to make it easier and safer for cyclists to commute into and out of London via direct and continuous cycle route . But CS7 and CS3 haven’t exactly done that.

CS3 is pretty much a nightmare. The shared pavement sections on Cable Street and the A13 aren’t continuous and aren’t exactly what i would call safe. Pedestrians walking onto the cycle route, plenty of roads crossing the path where they have priority. And due to how narrow it is, it makes it very hard to pass slower cyclists if it’s busy.
Due to the on road bits being built on sections of road which are quite narrow, then there is lots of conflict with drivers as you are forced to take a primary road position at plenty of points to keep safe. Not exactly what a novice cyclist wants to be doing on their dream cycle path to work.

CS7 is much the similar, i use it near daily for my commute to and from work and anyone that watches my videos will know that it certainly comes with issues. At certain sections you have to take a primary position to avoid dangerous overtakes and to keep your self safe.

Most of the cycle lanes along both routes only meet the minimum requirements set by the DfT (1.5m in width). With less than 1 mile of both of them being any greater. Even less of them are mandatory, and thus you will often find that other vehicles are driving in them and it’s not uncommon for it to actually be completely blocked.

Re-design of the road structure has been kept to a minimum. Sections of road have been re-designed to attempt to keep traffic flow and cycling flow constant but key issues like left hooks have not been addressed.

TFL boast about the increase in ASL size and quantity. Which is pointless considering they aren’t even enforced and more often than not they are full with other kinds of vehicles or you can’t get to them!

The main problem I see with these cycle lanes is the mentality of cyclists. I witness on a near daily basis cyclists filtering in the blue cycle lane in an unsafe position. Be it through a small gap or up the inside of a left turning TP flat-bed lorry. When these blue cycle lanes of death are laid down on the road, it gives cyclists the feeling that they are safe because they have their own designated area but in reality we are still at risk from the motorists that care not for our safety.

These cycle lanes are meant to aid in the cycling revolution that is happening in London. An increase of 70% of cycle journeys was recorded on CS3 and CS7. But the cycle lanes do not meet the demands of commuters, more often that not they are overflowing with cyclists overtaking each other and conflicts with drivers are not dropping.

Will the new cycle superhighway routes be an improvement over what has been given to us?

On a side note, don’t even try to use the superhighways on a weekend. It’s like cycling down Oxford street!

Silly Cyclists – Episode 24

The 24th Episode of silly cyclists is out.
There are a few new things, a website for silly cyclists and a twitter feed, subscribe for updates.

This weeks episode looks at brakes, filtering, red light jumping and general bad cycling.

I got lots of submissions this week but unfortunately couldn’t use them all. This video features CyclingMikeySkrzypczykBass and tommikomulainen.

Advanced Stop Lines – The results

I said a few weeks ago that I was going to collect some data about ASL’s and how many people I see breaking the rules on them. I took the data from a 5 day commuting period, which resulted in 149.55 miles traveled, 11 hours and 30 minutes in the saddle.

I stopped at 88 sets of traffic lights which had an ASL. 7 of those ASL’s had no vehicles that shouldn’t be in there from the time I was in it till the time I left it on the green light. At 12 of those 88, I couldn’t filter to the ASL, either due to it being full with vehicles or because the filter lane and other access routes were blocked.

At those 88 sets of traffic lights I saw 154 vehicles in them whilst the light was red. 59% of those where there when I got to it, and 41% of them I saw move pass the first stop light whilst the light was red.

54% of the vehicles that where in the ASL’s where motorbikes, the other 46% where other vehicles on the road, be them lorries, vans or cars.
On average, there where 1.75 vehicles in each ASL that shouldn’t have been there.

The highway code states, Rule 178:

Advanced stop lines. Some signal-controlled junctions have advanced stop lines to allow cycles to be positioned ahead of other traffic. Motorists, including motorcyclists, MUST stop at the first white line reached if the lights are amber or red and should avoid blocking the way or encroaching on the marked area at other times, e.g. if the junction ahead is blocked. If your vehicle has proceeded over the first white line at the time that the signal goes red, you MUST stop at the second white line, even if your vehicle is in the marked area. Allow cyclists time and space to move off when the green signal shows.

The highway code suggests that you should treat the ASL like a yellow box and pedestrian crossing. If you can move all the way passed it then fine, but if you will stop in it due to traffic ahead of you, then you should stop at the first stop line. This suggests that any vehicle caught in the ASL that shouldn’t be there, could be fined.

Lets see what the Road Traffic Act and The Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions have to say about ASL’s. *reads sections outlined by the highway code* Well that would be nothing. Just the laws about stopping at the first stop line but nothing about ASL’s. Which means that the police can only fine someone if they see them cross the first white line whilst the light is amber or red (amber is a 50/50 ).

I’ve yet to see anyone get fined for crossing the first stop line whilst the light is red. There have been some tales told by cyclists, the police say they can only fine someone if they see them cross the first stop line whilst the light is on red. Even then I doubt the driver will get a £60 and 3 points for it, more a telling off.

TFL boast that they added new ASL’s and increased the size of the existing ones along the super highways. But what is the point in wasting tax payers money on facilities for vulnerable road users if motor vehicles just ignore them? I would have no problem with TFL boasting about them if they where actually enforced and useful to cyclists but I fear that they often act as a target for cyclists to filter to and can put them in danger.

Popularity of the Cycle Superhighways

TFL released a press statement yesterday stating that cycle journeys have increased by up to 100 per cent during peak times on route 7 and 3.

The headline is a bit misleading unless you look at the numbers and the smaller print at the bottom. The 100% increase was only on a few sections of the routes (these sections are not mentioned) and the real increase is more around 70% with the CS7 (A24) seeing a jump from 2724 in 2009 to 4092 in 2010 and CS3 (A13) seeing a jump from 1388 in 2009 to 2932 in 2010. These where taken during a 12 hour period and where both done in October.

What we can’t tell is how many of them are new cyclists, it may just be that the extra 70% of cyclists that are on these routes have just migrated from another route near by because they now feel safer with the larger number of cyclists.

So whilst it is clearly positive that we see such large numbers of cyclists on a single route during a 12 hour period. There may not actually be any new cyclists on the route.
Lets also not forget that the A24/A3 has been a popular route for cyclists to get to the city for quite some time now, and I suspect that CS7 was chosen as one of the first routes to be a pilot as it would be very hard for it to fail.
What will really tell is how the next 10 Cycle Superhighways do on improving the numbers.

60 per cent of cyclists said the blue coloured surfacing made them feel safer. Overall, more than three quarters asked said that the Barclays Cycle Superhighways had improved safety for cyclists.

If only it was the case that we where safer in the blue lanes. I’m afraid that in some situations the cycle superhighways put cyclists in danger by taking them next to parked cars and leaving them to cross a busy lane just outside oval. The cycle lanes don’t stop people from driving like idiots on the roads and until that behaviour is sorted no amount of paint will make us truly feel safer.
The later section of that quote leads me to believe that motorists believe that the blue lanes make us safer, hopefully not because they think we now have a defined place on the roads along these routes. As I often find I’m in need to leave the superhighway and take control of the road due to a pinch point or obstruction of some sort.

Lets not forget that the superhighways are not just about blue paint and that TFL and the local councils have done a fantastic job of improving the routes for cyclists (even if it isn’t quite at the level we want).
There are 40km of new or improved cycle lanes, 94 new or improved ASLs at least five meters deep, 46 signalised junctions improved to provided quicker journey times and create more space for cyclists, 39 safety mirrors installed at junctions, 2,372 new cycle parking spaces along the routes and 1,362 extra cycle training hours delivered.

BUT we are missing some important data in this press release with regards to traffic and public transport along side the cycle superhighways.
What effect is there on traffic?
Is there a decrease in the use of cars?
Are the buses/tubes/trains quieter?