Thursday 21 November 2013

Getting off my high saddle

In a horrible couple of weeks for cycling in the capital, and what seems to be a concerted rear-guard action by the mayor and others to deflect attention away from the state of the roads for cycling by comments about lawless cyclists wearing headphones, it is difficult not to get really angry.

But, as much as I would love to rant, I thought I would post my thoughts on a really quite well-meaning tweet that apparently got a big backlash from some cyclists this week, and the subsequent blog where the author is confused by the reaction. I wanted to note why I think the tweet got the reaction it did, and why it gave me cause to let out a small sigh.

Firstly, the tweet was by @thecustodysgt and is clearly by a member of the police, but tweeted in a personal capacity. The tweet that caused "offence" was

Screen Shot 2013-11-20 at 17.00.53

After what appears to be somewhat of a backlash on twitter, the author put together a blog post, found here in which he felt that he tweeted many road safe messages for both drivers and cyclists on offences commonly committed by both but it was only cyclists who got offended. And I can see why it might sound like cyclists are a thin skinned lot anxious to defend law breaking. And I want to put down my thoughts as to why this might elicit the response it did (and make me sigh slightly).

As a reference to motoring tweets he chose the following on the blog.


Now both tweets don't feel offensive to me as either a driver or a cyclist. Both are clearly published with good intentions And one has to always bear in mind that twitter isn't really the best place to gauge the general reaction of any particular community to anything.

But here is the first thing. The tweet on cyclists seems to send out a bit of a subtext that isn't present in the second. Try taking the text from the cycling tweet and moving it to the texting tweet; it would read something like "A ubiquitous law. Contrary to popular belief the ban on texting also applies to car drivers". Sounds like there is possibly a bit of a subtext running through this? Maybe that car drivers generally ignore this law? That maybe car drivers have a popular opinion that the law doesn't matter?

Now take the second tweet - a powerful one that doesn't have much of a subtext other than texting and driving is dangerous. It isn't even really targeting car drivers, it could be the lorry driver was texting. It certainly isn't giving the inference that there is a popular belief that texting whilst driving isn't applicable to them.

Now this all might sound a bit thin-skinned. Maybe I need to be a little less precious. But consider it in conjunction with two weeks where there has been six fatalities, some of which on routes I regularly cycle. That my wife is currently clearly worried about my cycling and that I am also becoming jittery about the roads I need to use. Realise that I see the fatal accident boards on my commute. And then understand that the reaction in the press and, indeed from people who are in power and should know better, is to link these deaths with traffic offences which appear to bear absolutely no relationship to the cause of the collisions.  Then imagine reading the comments sections under press articles where the level of vitriol  is difficult to comprehend when they are simply about a mode of transport. Comments which go from blaming cyclists because they break the law to ones that say cyclists deserve it to ones that actually say we are scum because we might decide to pedal to the shops and sometimes we die in horrible collisions.

Imagine if, after a series of terrible pile-ups such as on the M5 a few years ago or the Sheppey Bridge one more recently, the Mayor said that motorists who play music too loud are a scourge and should it should be banned because they cannot hear traffic, even if this wasn't a contributory factor in any of the pile-ups. Imagine that the press ran headlines asking "Even after these deaths" why do motorists still want to speed, tailgate, floor it through amber lights and park in dangerous locations even if none of these violations were actually material to the deaths? Imagine if these articles had comments that said motorists deserved to die as loads drive like suicidal maniacs, think they own the road, and park outside school gates and on zebra crossings. Would this not, as a motorist, make you feel pretty pissed off?

Well this is what I feel like as a cyclist at the moment. A whole bunch of cyclists die in horrible accidents and the backlash from all quarters is simply amazing. And all I want to do is use a convenient way of doing my fucking shopping and getting a bit of exercise. Yet it appears that this is viewed with a suspicion and distrust normally reserved for anti-social criminals.

So the tweet, in itself, may have only been slightly oddly worded, and the reaction might appear to be out of proportion. But consider it against this backdrop and maybe the reaction can be understood in the context of recent events.

Wednesday 20 November 2013

Drapers field revisited

I was travelling by bus today and passed Drapers Field in Leyton.

At the beginning of 2012 I wrote a post about how this field - heavily used by local schools and teams for football, cricket and other sports - was going to be closed and concreted over to act as a storage area for the Olympics. The field is just around the corner from the Olympic village.

From memory, and with reference to this newspaper article, the field was closed in September 2011 and transformed from this

Drapers Field - to be shut for 2 years

To this :

Now, the plans and news reports had the closure lasting 18 months - in fact the news report linked above has the time the ODA would have the facility as from Sept 2011 to Sept 2012.

Going past the site today it was obvious that it still is under redevelopment. There is a football pitch with floodlights on the far side, whilst the rest of the field is full of earth moving equipment and mud.

After a bit of googling, I got to a notice on the Waltham Forest website which says that work is starting on Drapers Field in May 2013 and due for completion in early 2014.

Assuming that early 2014 means Jan-Mar 2014, this means Drapers Field has been closed to the public for over 28-30 months or around 2.5 yrs.

From the council website it might be inferred that the work was awaiting funding from the Olympic Legacy Committee. Maybe this has delayed the transformation back to a local facility. Whatever the reason, this field has been closed to the schools, sports teams and locals for around a year longer than first discussed when the decision to close it was finalised.

In truth it doesn't matter why it has been closed for this time. It is simply a bit sad to see a rare piece of green open space that was clearly extensively used being removed from public use for so long. I could think up some sarcastic, ironic comments about Olympic legacy, but really it is just simply a bit depressing.

I hope the new facilities compensate in some measure and that the field can be seen as part of a legacy of sports facilities for the local area.

Monday 18 November 2013

Mini Holland? Maximum Scepticism.

(Caution : Posting contains rude words)

I haven't posted anything in a long while. I got to the point where I was no longer amazed or angry at the vast disparity between the stated intentions of local road planning organisations and the results, and that pointing out the various ridiculous statements and idiotic cycling schemes was somehow getting tedious.

Then a couple of things happened.

1) Cyclists started dying on "cycle superhighways" - on roads that I use regularly and have been flagged more than once by cycling organisations as deeply unpleasant or unsafe. Junctions such as Bow where cyclists have been dying since 2011 yet it seems that "nothing can be done". This has made me less grumpy and more fucking angry. But I will leave Boris and his unpleasant and disingenuous remarks for another post.

2) I get through the local Waltham Forest propaganda sheet a few months ago which has a big article on how Waltham Forest council are creating a cycling revolution on our streets. There are many more people cycling in Walthamstow but for the council to claim credit is chutzpah of the highest order. Then I get through a "consultation" on improvements to Hoe Street and Forest Road. And finally I see that Waltham Forest are urging people to support their mini-Holland bid for some money for cycling in greater London. And all these things, I feel, need comment because the gulf between what the council say is happening and what is actually happening is now so wide that I think they must just be doing this crap for a fucking bet. So I thought my first post in nearly a year should concentrate on my old favourite - the bollocks that Waltham Forest manage to spout whilst - at best - managing to be completely ineffective for cycling.

I shall start off with the "improvement" plan for Bell Corner and the adjoining roads - Hoe Street and Forest road. For those unfamiliar Google view below gives an idea of the current state of this junction

View Larger Map

Note the three lanes of traffic. Note the incredibly narrow pavements and the tiny strip of cycle lane neatly running down the left side of the left turn lane.

Now traffic regularly speeds down this road. And Forest Road has a bad reputation for accidents.

There was a cyclist killed in a hit and run at Bell junction in 2007. Another cyclist was killed in a hit and run in 2008 a few hundred metres away near Winns terrace. Also in 2007 a motorist was speeding and was killed when his car hit the kerb at the Bell junction and hit the traffic lights. In the same year a car smashed into the wall of Lloyd Park. Last year a car overturned when it hit the pedestrian crossing outside the park just down the road from the Bell junction. In 2009 a motorist was killed when he hit the Bell pub on the corner of the junction. From memory, around 2011 a moped rider was seriously injured near Ruby road at the same spot that I remember at least 4 cars in the last 4 years hitting the central pedestrian refuge, normally late at night and presumably speeding much above the 30mph judging by the aftermath. The other month the road was closed further towards Blackhorse road due to an accident which wasn't even reported upon. And finally, a couple of months ago a child got hit by a car and had to be taken via Air Ambulance to hospital. Luckily he  made a full recovery, but it does focus the mind to witness a child about the same age as my daughter lying motionless in a road. But even this incident didn't manage to make it to the local paper.

All this might make you think that those in charge of these roads would pause to think about making it much more pleasant and safe for pedestrians and cyclists and to try to slow down drivers to something like the speed limit.

And, indeed the road layout is changing - with the plans below

This is from a consultation document that majored heavily on how the changes will help cyclists and pedestrians and improve the streetscape. It mentioned that Hoe Street would become 20mph. It mentioned that traffic would be slowed near the entrance to a popular park and museum just down Forest Road.

What it didn't mention was that the narrow pavements seem on google view were going to be unaltered and the biggest change at this junction is actually represented by the yellow lines on the map. Which are - of course - added parking bays.

So, for cyclists, the current situation on Forest road is that you have a very narrow cycle lane which encourages cars to left hook you as they turn into Chingford Road. The new layout will have a very narrow cycle lane which encourages cars to left hook you as they turn into Chingford Road and the added bonus that you might now also get doored in the cycle lane by people getting out of parked cars. Presumably this is what the council class as spearheading a cycling revolution.

So what about Hoe Street? This is quite a narrow road with shops either side and multiple side roads adjoining. On a Sunday it becomes a nightmare because the parking restrictions on the road are lifted and the buses on the numerous routes down there have to squeeze past cars parked by drivers who prefer to park like fuckwits instead of walking a few metres. Most traffic goes around 20-30mph but it is downhill towards the lights and there will always be the odd genius who decides to floor it to the next red light.

Hoe Street will become 20mph. But seeing as 20mph limits are completely unenforced on all other 20mph roads, I doubt this will make a blind bit of difference to any driver who wants to speed. It looks like they will rip out a zebra crossing to replace it with a light controlled crossing. Which is presumably helping pedestrians by making them wait for the light sequence as opposed to being able to take priority on a zebra. Which sounds very much like the sort of "help" the council also metes out to cyclists. And, of course, the biggest change is, again, the fact that the road is going to be narrowed to add on street parking.

Waltham Forest have form for fucking over cycling in preference to car parking. They did it at the other end of Hoe Street near Bakers Arms where they narrowed a road specifically to allow pavement parking. So now, you can either cycle right next to the parked cars, risking dooring whilst the traffic overtakes you so close they brush you with their wing mirrors, or you can decide to take the lane and have motorists hanging off your back wheel.

On the plus side it looks like there will be more cycle parking, but on closer inspection I am slightly sceptical that even this is what it seems. Some of those locations already have a stand, so it may be more a case that they will remove a stand to replace it later on. I suppose I should be grateful, at least they are not making matters worse..

This type of road layout change to increase parking whilst spouting bullshit about how they are improving life for pedestrians and cyclists is really Waltham Forest's modus operandi. So I think I am allowed to be somewhat sceptical when I see a request for residents to fill in a survey explaining how excited they would be if Waltham Forest got some of the money allocated to make certain Greater London areas into "mini Hollands". The survey says:

The Mayor of London has allocated £100m to improve cycling infrastructure in Outer London, as part of the Cycling Vision's Mini Holland programme. Waltham Forest is through to the final eight shortlisted boroughs, but only four will be selected to share the £100m. 

A successful bid would result in a step change for cycling conditions in Walthamstow town centre and across the borough, as well as reducing congestion for other road users. Proposals include a network of 'Quietways', a Cycle Superhighway along Lea Bridge Road, a new Dutch-style cycle roundabout at Whipps Cross along with widespread greening and environmental improvements.

Waltham Forest is competing with other boroughs for the Mini Holland funding. We'd like to show Transport for London that our residents back our bid, so please pledge your support below.

Sounds marvelous. Lea Bridge road is a popular cycle route but is horrible and is possibly worse than Forest Road for cycle accidents. Whipps Cross roundabout is less of a roundabout and more of a free-for-all gyratory with drivers able to speed at will.

But judging on previous form, I am so deeply sceptical about what might be implemented in the name of cycle improvement that I don't think I should sign anything that may encourage the council. The phrase "reducing congestion for other road users" makes me suspicious for a start. How would this be achieved whilst making conditions easier for cycling? Are they thinking that more people cycling = less cars, which is probably too rational for them, or is it, as I suspect, that they will use the opportunity to rework junctions to improve traffic flow? Whipps Cross roundabout did have plans to be removed and replaced with a more cycle friendly lights junction - the huge amount of space available should allow implementation of something really cycle and pedestrian friendly, but I believe this was shelved. The last plan I saw for "cycle friendly" roundabout was a horrid scheme which I blogged about here; I have reprinted the plan below.

The red line shows that, whilst a driver going south on LeaBridge Road would have three light controlled junctions, a cyclist using the offroad lanes would be stopped at junctions 8 times. And conflict with pedestrians on narrow pavements.

Finally, quietways sound great in principle, but - like the LCN implementation beforehand, they will usually be on narrow roads which quite often act as rat-runs for drivers, they will often be badly signposted and circuitous with crossings at major roads that are probably more difficult and dangerous than just using the main road. I used to use the quiet roads signed when I first started cycling. I found I was pushed to one side on narrow double parked streets by angry motorists who had become incensed that I had slowed up their rat-run. I also found that the signs would be so small as to be useless and when you saw them they would often be turned the wrong way or simply confusing. I gave up on back roads and used the main roads -my policy even to this day.

I can find no reference to plans for the supposed improvements planned so who knows what is in the minds of the road planners? All I would say is that the "improvements" to Forest Road and Hoe Street are now underway and the first change was that two zebra crossings were removed with no temporary facility for pedestrians. This included one crossing on Forest Road used extensively by parents with children going to the local schools. Presumably whilst the works are ongoing those of us needing to cross the road are expected to invent some kind of teleportation device or jetpack to allow safe passage across the road. Traffic flow hasn't been impeded at all.

So the question is - why should I trust this council with any cycling funds?

Saturday 1 December 2012

It has been some time since my last post. It isn't because cycling in Waltham Forest, and London more generally, has become such a wonderful experience that I no longer have anything to moan about.

I just haven't found the time to put together a full post. I have a rather eclectic mix of less than half finished posts, the last of which was actually only 8 words long before I gave up.

In the meantime, I have to say quite a lot has been happening with cycling in general. We have had Bradley Wiggens, and his coach in accidents which has reignited the cycling safety debate, albeit not in a particularly constructive way when radio channels such as LBC debate whether cyclists should be allowed on A roads.

In the time between posts the weather has taken a significant turn for the worse. It is now very cold, wet and windy  as opposed to the summer which was slightly less cold, wet and windy. What has pleased me is that, even in these conditions, I am absolutely not the only cyclist on the roads. It may be my inexhaustible optimism, but I do feel that more people are cycling these days. Around 8am on the A10 between Stoke Newington and Aldgate there appears to be more cyclists than private cars. Where I was once the only cyclist on the Tottenham Hale / Seven Sisters part of the A10, I now see more. Walthamstow also seems to have more cyclists. I assume Waltham Forest and TfL will attribute this to the power of whatever warm and fuzzy social media advertising campaign they have running at the moment , but I wonder if the recession and appalling traffic might be more the reason.

In the last couple of months a few cycling news stories have caught my eye, but none have made me more open-mouthed with incredulity than a feature that was run on an Australian news programme. I have never visited Australia but a friend of mine worked there for around two years. He said there were many things which surprised him, most in a very good way. But one thing that astonished him was Australian government's obsession with health and safety. I suppose this might account for their laws about cycling and helmet use. This strikes me as odd  in a country where virtually any animal on land or sea, no matter how big or small, appears to be venomous to a ridiculous degree - I would have thought living around so many animals which can kill you in a myriad of painful and innovative ways would have imparted a certain laissez faire attidute to health and safety.

Anyway, the story may be one that is now fairly well known. A reporter for a news programme happens to see a woman cycling with a child in a trailer on a busy street and then proceeds to follow her around in his car whilst his passenger is films the cyclist and shouts "IS THAT SAFE" at her. Presumably cycling in the city with a child might be safer if it didn't involve lunatics tail-gating her whilst shouting.

For those who wish their blood pressure to be raised, the television article can be found here. The cyclist's side of the story can be found here.

The most astonishing part of the video was the "expert" who viewed the footage as if the mother had left the child to play with fireworks in the middle of railway tracks. Multiple cutaways showed his face in various contortions ranging from pity to disgust to rage. This was followed by an almost equally astonishing demonstration of what would happen if a car hit something soft and squidgy at 60 kph. As if the audience might need help to make the mental leap on the consequences of fast travelling metal making contact with flesh and bone. I wondered what would happen if the "expert" was shown footage of an average school commute in Copenhagen or Amsterdam or Berlin. Presumably he would self combust with indignation.

It led me to thinking how cycling, and its "dangers" are handled by various country's media and government. The action of cycling one's child to school in this film was viewed as some kind of suicide mission where the mother had lost her mind and was subjecting the child to a near death experience. At no point did anyone producing the film think "Maybe our roads should allow people to choose to cycle their children to school. Maybe this would help people's health. Maybe it would ease congestion. Maybe it might be a neat thing to encourage what with the obesity problems and our CO2 emissions being some of the highest per capita in the world".

In London, TfL would view someone cycling with their child as proof positive that London was now a cycling city. They might even produce some Youtube videos about it involving minor celebrities and some roads emptied of the normal traffic. The press are now either pro-cycling such as The Times and The Guardian or dress up general distrust of anyone daring not to use their car as "we would like them if they weren't law breaking communists"  (eg. Daily Mail). Although local and national government still haven't got to a stage where they would encourage cycling by doing anything to hamper "traffic flow", at least in the UK we appear to have moved on from the stance taken by the Australian film.

In the Netherlands and Denmark, the act of someone cycling their child to school would be viewed as completely normal. If the cycling conditions in the film were in Copenhagen or Amsterdam I imagine that the question the viewers would ask would be "why are we allowing cars to endanger this cyclist and child" rather than "why is this cyclist on our roads?"  Which is where hopefully the UK will end up sometime in the near future.

Wednesday 22 August 2012

The criminal classes

Cyclists are lawless reprobates. That much is pretty much fact.

So it is useful to know that the esteemed research tome, Auto Express, have managed to quantify exactly how lawless and naughty cyclists are by using rigorous scientific methodology. And it appears that 74.2% of cyclists are  scofflaw scumbags as opposed to 12.1% of the motoring community. It must be right - the survey is so precise that the results can be measured to a tenth of a percent. That is some kick-ass data collection going on there folks.

So what are the principle crimes of these cyclists that merit the headline of "Cyclists break more road rules than motorists"? Well here is the list

Cyclists  %*   Fault                      Cars    %**

287      29.4  No reflective clothing      NA      NA
104      10.7  No indicating               49     1.6
 90       9.2  No helmet                   NA      NA
 84       8.6  Pulling out without looking 25     0.8
 58       5.9  Jumping lights              12     0.4
 44       4.5  Wearing headphones          42     1.3
 33       3.4  Almost causing collision    17     0.5
 16       1.6  Mounting pavement            0     0.0
  0       0.0  Waiting in cycle box        83     2.6
  0       0.0  Crossing a stop line        83     2.6
  2       0.2  Using phone                 38     1.2
  1       0.1  Eating                       9     0.3
  0       0.0  Blocking crossing           22     0.7

719      74.2  Total                      380    12.1

If you look at this you will realise that cyclists are so lawless that, with the no reflective clothing or helmets, they are breaking road rules that don't even exist. That is taking lawlessness to another level - they are turning our roads into some kind of traffic equivalent of the OK Corral!

Then we have the objective categories of "pulling out without looking" and "almost causing a collision", which cyclists also seem to excel at. Although, strangely they don't seem to be particularly adept at waiting in the cycle box - presumably because it was full of cars.

Of course minor offences such as speeding weren't included as this type of slight oversight by drivers is completely understandable and would simply skew the results. As would counting the number of drivers without correct tax/insurance/license (hint : at last count it was 13% in London).

Of course, the cyclists might say that only the cars in front of the queue have the opportunity to, say, wait in the cycle box, and that 83 cars encroaching on the ASL might mean that every red phase of the lights had it stuffed with cars, but one can overdo the scientific rigour.

The really laughable thing about this article is that the publishers (Dennis publishing) pulled the online version pretty quickly after cyclists complained to them in droves and started to organise a campaign to boycott the publishers new cycling magazine due for launch in a few weeks. I guess it wasn't considered particularly good PR to have a sister publication vomiting up half-baked articles slagging off the core demographic of a new magazine.

For those interested, the new cycling magazine by Dennis publication will be called "Tax Dodging, Scofflaw rule breaking outcasts". No, not really, apparently that wouldn't fit on the cover using the standard typeface. So they decided upon "Cyclist". Presumably, once they got to naming the magazine the journalists' creative and imaginative flair had been exhausted putting together the cycling statistics for their sister publication.

Saturday 11 August 2012

So who is Kierin, anyway?

The Olympics - and team GBs proficiency at the cycling events - have generated a rather odd phenomenon. Which I have termed expertise by association.

I shall explain.

Clearly lots of people are excited by the Olympic cycling since we won lots of races. But most people have no idea about the format or rules of these cycling races, which can look quite confusing. My friends and family then decide that, because I cycle, I must be au-fait with finer points of the sport. And I get asked questions. It hasn't occurred to them that I use my cycle to go to the shops and visiting people instead of in a velodrome. I admit that I sometimes put on my tracksuit and huff and puff around London on the cycle in an effort to get fit (a futile effort since I invariably come home hungry and longing for a curry). But I think this scant qualification to be classed "an expert".

My mother asked me the other day about the rules concerning Kierin*. I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about - I actually thought for a while that she was talking about someone called Kierin. I explained to her that since she had watched a Kierin she probably had much more knowledge about the sport than me, who had never heard of it, or seen it, before she mentioned it. And this is my mother. Who, frankly, should know better than most my relationship to any type of sporting endeavour (I enjoy the types of sport where others play it and I watch it, preferably in a pub).

It amuses me that, because I happen to cycle, I am assumed to be an expert on the cycling sporting world. The fact that cycling as a sport has only a very passing interest for me seems to confuse. But do all people who drive know about motorsport? The assumption that I understand Kierin is analogous to assuming that my mother will understand the finer points of Nascar because she drives to the shops.

I think this confusion between cycling as a sport and cycling as a transport option arises because cycling is considered a hobby, something that only the super fit or slightly eccentric indulge in. Therefore if one cycles one must be really into it. Thankfully attitudes are changing, especially in London where a more diverse range of people are tend to use the cycle to get around, but the assumption still persists, especially in my mother's generation.

But the confusion between cycling as a transport option and as a sport and hobby is understandable when politicians appear to make the same mistake

For example, Boris' olympic cycling legacy was launched on Friday. A two day extravaganza of cycling including a kind of souped up "sky-ride" and cycling races around London. Which is all very nice, but hardly much of legacy for cycling as a transport option. Unless Boris thinks that I can wait a year to do my shopping until he shuts the roads for a day or so. 

Any Olympic legacy that helps cycling as a transport option seems rather distant. I am not an ardent believer in segregated cycle infrastructure, but a legacy where streets were started to be treated as places for people as opposed to conduits for traffic would be a legacy. Some courageous decisions on how our roads work would be a legacy. Slowing traffic to facilitate walking and cycling would be a legacy. An event that allows people to ride their cycles on pleasant roads for 1 day a year isn't a legacy, it is more a "here is what you could have won" if those involved in planning our roads weren't quite so beholden to traffic smoothing and grew some kahunas to implement some of those platitudes and aspirations they spout about cycling.

* Note : I know that Sir Chris Hoyle won the Kierin and so we should be pleased about this event, but any sport whose rules are so lax that they allow one of the competitors to sneak in with a motorbike really needs to take a good look at itself. For most of the race the competitor who had fitted the motor was in front, as you would expect, and it was starting to get a bit like a procession. Thankfully, in the race I saw, the sneaky motorcyclist careered off the track - presumably with engine trouble or something - with only two laps to go to allow those competitors who hadn't stretched the rules a shot at Gold.  

Friday 10 August 2012

Barmy Bow Bollards

I felt that there was little that could be done to the Bow junction that could possibly make matters worse. All the check boxes had appeared to have been ticked : cycle superhighway covered in vehicles? Tick. Motorway style exits allowing cars to speed far in excess of 30mph? Tick. Zero policing of speed? Tick. Cyclists deposited on roundabout against left turning traffic? Tick.

The new scheme at the roundabout lights made matters slightly better if one could work out the meanings of all the light phasing - for instance not asssuming that a green cycle light meant proceed onto the roundabout. And that drivers didn't jump the lights or encroach the ASL. Or take off so quickly from the lights that they catch up, and left hook, the cyclists. And cyclists didn't mind waiting twice the number of phases as cars. But the scheme is a testimony to the fact that TfL view traffic flow above cycle and pedestrian safety. As if anyone by now didn't know this.

So, imagine my surprise, when I was cycling up to the Bow Flyover (the roundabout was a mess of traffic as per normal) during the Olympics to find this.

Whoever had decided to put these cones in had done it! They had exceeded my expectations on how unpleasant they could make Bow for cyclists!

For the Olympics the inner lane of the flyover has been coned off. As I approached it I suddenly felt with dread that I would have to either retain primary on the available lane and suffer the consequences of drivers frustrated that I was delaying them, maybe by seconds, to the next traffic lights, or hug the cones and have them pass within inches of me at the typical law breaking high speeds found on this flyover. A cyclist in front of me chose the latter option and it looked utterly terrifying. A van shot past and how it missed him is a mystery to this day. Presumably the advice would be to claim the lane but this is only good if you have a strong constitution for angry motorists.

Then, I realised that there was a little cycle roundal and a tiny gap in the cones which appeared to indicate that cycles should enter the coned area. I popped in there, although the signs were so unclear I wasn't certain that I wasn't going to meet roadworks or something nasty over the top of the flyover. When I crested the flyover I realised all was OK and proceeded down the other side. To the end where there was a tiny exit and a give way sign. Frankly, you need all the speed you can get to negotiate the slip road traffic travelling at 40mph+, and this scheme makes you slow down to slalom through the tiny gap whilst attempting to swivel your head around 180 degrees to check for traffic. Which has no idea that cyclists may be merging since there are absolutely no signs or indications aside from a lonely "give way" sign for the cyclists and a tiny gap in the cones.

Having done this route several times now, I realise that it is intended for cyclists to dive into the coned area and then patiently wait for a gap in the traffic to exit onto the road to the outside lane. It is like a scene from Mad Max except slightly more dangerous.

The question I have is why? Why do this? Why have the entrance to the coned area for cyclists so small and positioned such that you need to get into the outside lane to access? Why have the exit at the bottom of a steep slope where the signs are so confusing and the cyclist is left with absolutely no priority to merge with two streams of fast moving traffic?

The answer is because the coned area has nothing to do with cycle safety or convenience. It is so that traffic merging from the roundabout can do so without having to give way to traffic coming off the flyover. And then someone decided to stick an access point for cyclists so they didn't get in the way of the cars. Absolutely no thought has been given to how cyclists will use this road layout, or whether it is easily followed, safe or convenient. I would very much doubt anyone involved in this little scheme has ever cycled it. It is, again, symptomatic of the fact that cycling considerations and infrastructure are a very poor relation to traffic smoothing.

To say these things are an afterthought is unfair - it indicates that some thought went into the plan for cyclists in the first place.

It does, however, indicate a couple of interesting things

1) The Olympics, as fine as they are, will have absolutely no positive effect on moderating local roads to become more conducive to cycling. The Olympics are a boost for cycling due to the heroic efforts of Bradley Wiggens and the cycling teams on the track, but the local transport bodies will not be delivering any help to create a legacy that helps people make the transition to using cycles instead of cars.

2) Bow flyover is massively underutilised by vehicles. This is obvious, even at standard rush hour most traffic goes off to the A12 link roads and leaves light local traffic to speed off over the flyover. Reducing the flyover capacity for vehicles has had no appreciable effect on traffic flow at all. There is a whole load of tarmac on the flyover that could be used for other things - such as a really nice cycle lane and it wouldn't even have any effect on the traffic. Yet I suppose that when the Olympics end, the configuration will be reset and cyclists choosing the Bow Flyover instead of the horrible roundabout will still have the exciting prospect of trying to gauge whether that speeding driver coming up the inside lane behind them has spotted them or is too busy texting / chatting / eating.

3) To make the current arrangements a bit more obvious and friendly to cyclists would cost next to nothing. A bigger sign to show cyclists that they can use the inside lane. A slightly different arrangement of the cones to let cyclists enter the coned area without slaloming into the outside lane. Some signs maybe at the end of the coned area to tell motorists to watch out for cyclists merging into the lanes. Hell, they could go wild and put down some road markings to show that cyclists may be merging, possibly even a rumble strip or two to encourage motorists to moderate their speed to something closer to 30mph than warp factor 7.

The last point strongly indicates to me that consideration to cycling isn't just being horribly compromised by "traffic flow" and lack of funds, but also by a complete lack of understanding of how cycling works. Whoever designed this little coned section should have been someone who had cycled it. The flaws become apparent immediately if you actually use it.

The Olympics have been a fantastic. The cycling at the Olympics has been a triumph with gold medal after gold medal. But cycling to the Olympics has been a farce. At a time when cycling makes more sense than ever, when the profile of cycling is higher than ever, we need people new to cycling to be doing it at least in part because of the road planning, not in spite of it. Because with the current state of the roads, many of those enthused by the Olympics to cycle for transport or leisure will give up and return to their cars after a couple of weeks. And that would be a very sorry legacy indeed.