Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Traffic Light Tribulations

As noted several times in Freewheeler's Crap Cycling in Waltham Forest blog here, the lights at the junction of Hoe Street and Selborne Road used to have a set of cycling lights to allow cyclists turning right from Hoe Street, or crossing Hoe Street from St Mary's Road, time to cross the road. To set the scene, at this junction, Hoe Street has 5 lanes of traffic (6 if drivers decide to make another lane going North by driving over the cycle lane at the junction), and Selborne Road has 2 lanes. So to cross Hoe Street from the cycle facility in St Mary's Road requires finding a gap between 3 lanes of traffic from Hoe Street going south, one lane from Selborne Road going right, and 2 lanes of traffic fron Hoe Street going North or turning left into Selborne Road. For those who don't know the junction, it might be best to imagine playing Frogger - except on a bicycle, and with the difficulty level set to "manic".

Well, nearly a year ago, there was work done on the junction, and for a couple of months there were temporary lights for cars - but no provision for cyclists or pedestrians (thus giving one some insight on the level of care that Waltham Forest or TFL affords non-car road users). This finished, but the hoods on the cycle lights were never removed. To this day they are still in place - I know, I took pictures of them this morning.

In a rare moment when my level of grumpiness spurred me into action, I emailed Waltham Forest on their website. You know, the one that boasts :

Waltham Forest Council has been one of the leading local authorities in London in its commitment to introducing cycling facilities and has won five awards over the past decade.

Now clearly a council that is that committed to cycling would be leaping upon any complaint concerning their award-winning infrastructure? I sent an email saying that the cycling provision was still not working after 3/4 of a year, and was there a plan to remove the hoods?

My email was sent on the 4th April 2010. It got sent to the traffic department the same day. It looked like things were moving. Then 10 days went past, so I emailed again. I emailed again on the 20th April and got a response that the traffic light provision was part of TFLs responsibility, not Waltham Forest. Slightly perplexed that it had taken 17 days for Waltham Forest to work this out, I decided to take up the fight with TFL. I forwarded the email to the TFL fault control "hotline" where I didn't receive a response from that day to this. Undeterred, a week or so later, I found the phone line to report issues to TFL and rang them. Whereupon a nice lady sounded suitably worried about a potentially dangerous junction due to non-working cycle lights, gave me a log number, took my details, and that was the last I ever heard. Clearly the team who trained Waltham Forest on timely responses also had worked on TfL. In the light of the dire public sector finances, one could imagine that both organisations who dealt with my query may be able to be replaced with an out-of-office message simply telling me to bog off.

Anyway, I had occasion to go through the junction this morning, and took some photos to illustrate

Selborne road cycle facilities from St Marys Road
Close up of hooded lights
Interestingly, whilst taking these, I noticed that underneath the sign telling all traffic to continue straight on except cycles (when it is controlling traffic on a cycle path?!), is a sign telling cyclists to dismount. So, it would appear to use this cycle facility in accordance with the signs, one cannot actually cycle. I presume this is because Waltham Forest thought that a fast moving cycle would be less easy for the 5 lines of oncoming traffic to hit than someone walking across whilst wheeling a bicycle.

I don't know how much it cost to put in this cycle facility, but I bet it wasn't less than £100k. And now it stands useless because, presumably, TfL cannot be bothered to re-instate it, and even if they did it could only be used by cyclists that had dismounted.

As an aside, even if the lights were working perfectly, and just waiting to shepherd cyclists safely to the delights of Selborne Road, the pictures below show another problem that the council seems to have overlooked.

View from St Marys Road to the cycle facility
That's right. This is the view towards the cycle facility from St Mary's road where, at the end, there is a cycle bypass to the now defunct cycle lights. Eagle-eyed readers will see that part of it just before the cycle crossing is no-entry. Therefore the law-abiding cyclist would need to :

Go up this road to the end. Along Church Road and then back down...

... to get back to St Mary's road only about 50 feet further along. It should be noted that Church lane has a righ and left turn at the end anyway, so if you cycle up to this road, you may as well not bother cycling back down just to use the cycle crossing.

Of course you could always follow the example of our MP, Stella Creasey and ignore the no-entry sign. But that would just be wrong.

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