Tuesday 1 February 2011

The A10 - cycle super scary highway

I often have cause to cycle on the A10 from Tottenham to Stamford Hill. This route is ear-marked for the blue Smurf paint which designates a "cycle super-highway". Unfortunately this isn't due to happen until 2015. And if a week is a long time in politics, four years is plenty of time for any cycling initiative to be quietly forgotten in preference to the status quo.

To illustrate the current cycling environment of the A10, I decided to take some photos.

This is the A10 / St Anns Road junction. There are three lanes of traffic here - all allowed to continue up the A10, where after the junction the road narrows to 2 lanes. In front of this stationary traffic waiting for the lights to turn is an ASL. Which is fantastic. One can filter to the front of the traffic and then set off up Stamford Hill with traffic behind roaring off the lights and jostling with each other for pole position up the hill.  It is a bit like being in a small rowing boat whilst waiting for a tsunami of traffic to engulf you in a wave of diesel fumes.

The frequent retort to any cyclist plea about motorists not killing us on the roads is that we jump red lights, and so therefore somehow deserve everything we get.  But, if there was ever a junction that cried out for cyclists to jump the red this is it. By doing this the cyclist would get a jump of the traffic and have only to contend with the light traffic from St Anns Road instead of that from the  A10. I don't jump red lights though - mainly because I am an idiot with such an ingrained middle-class sense of obeying the law that I would prefer to be engulfed in 3 lanes of fast moving metal. A civilised country would have cycle lights here to allow cyclists a head-start on traffic. I won't hold my breath for this to be implemented in the UK.

Finally, you might notice the cyclist waiting at the lights going north. Where the traffic is nose to tail and presents the cyclist with two options. Filter in-between the traffic, buses and lorries to make progress or stick behind the traffic and wait with them. Which rather defeats the object of cycling in the first place. 

Can you imagine a child or novice finding cycling in these conditions anything other than completely terrifying? Hell, I have done this journey 100's of times, and I still find it requires a change of underwear.

If one survives this junction then it is a bit of a slog up Stamford hill.

Going up this hill, the cyclist has a couple of options. Take vehicular cycling to heart and take primary on the inside lane. This causes some motorists to get very angry, beep their horns and close pass so they can undertake the traffic that is being sensible and taking the outside lane. An example of this being  this twat I previously described. The alternative to the vehicular cycling method is to hug the red no parking lines for grim death and have motorists get very angry, beep their horns and close pass so they can undertake the traffic that is being sensible and taking the outside lane. 

So not too much of a choice in reality.

This is on a road that also has railings all the way down it, so escaping onto the pavement if a lorry mis-judges the gaps isn't an option, and where - as ably demonstrated by the van in the background of the picture - cars lose patience with turning right and therefore "go halfway" and block the outside lane. Thus giving the motorist the challenge of how many of them can overtake before having to pull in behind the cyclist on the inside lane.

Finally, the reward for slogging up Stamford hill is the Amhurst hill junction.

A cross-roads of at least three lanes of traffic each way whilst pedestrians are corralled into a narrow pavement area with pretty much continuous railings just in case they get silly and decide they might want to cross the road.

If there needs to be a symbol of how utterly car-sick our roads have become, this junction should be it. The shopping area could actually be nice - there are some chain shops and some restaurants on the other side of the A10 where the pavement is wider. But anyone wanting to cycle the area, or walk from one side to the other has to do so in-between 5 or 6 lanes of traffic.

It doesn't have to be this way. The A10 stretch up Stamford Hill could at least have a bus lane on the inside lane which would afford a cyclist some protection. Amhurst junction could be remodelled to allow the area to flourish as a shopping and leisure area instead of a no-man's land of tarmac and fast moving metal. 

There are those that may say this route could be accomplished using the back roads. And this is true. But these are chocked full of parked cars leading to blind corners and close overtakes anyway. And the cycle signage is appalling - where it is present it is invariably pointing in the wrong direction. And the maze of one-way streets mean that a longer route than the direct A10 becomes very circuitous indeed. What is the point of cycling if one has to end up spending longer traversing minor roads that aren't signed properly, don't go directly to where one wants to go and then terminate at the very roads the cyclist was avoiding, without any priority? 

Maybe the CSH in 2015 will resolve matters. Or maybe it will never be implemented. Who knows? 

1 comment:

  1. The Cycle Super Highways really are just a blue line painted on the existing highway. It seems to be a branding exercise rather than any sort of re-think.

    I had some hopes for the A11 where lane and a half wide pavements seemed to offer hope for separate bike infrastructure but I noticed recently they had started preparing the markings and it turns out to be a thick blue line on the existing bus lane.