Friday 28 October 2011

CS2 death in Bow

It is with sadness that I read of the first death on a cycle-superhighway this week.

Details are somewhat scant aside from the following from the BBC link above.

A 58-year-old man has died after a collision with a tipper lorry on a cycle superhighway in east London.
The cyclist was involved in the collision on the roundabout at Bow Road, Bow, at 08:45 BST on Monday.
I normally use this blog to vent my frustration with dollops of sarcasm. For such a serious incident as above this is entirely inappropriate. The fact that this is the superhighway, and junction, I cycle through on a fairly regular basis, has brought this particular incident home.
I don't usually cycle the roundabout as it is circuitous, and in my opinion, more fraught with difficulties than the flyover going over the top of it. And the flyover isn't exactly easy to cycle.
The Bow roundabout is also where the Newham boundary lies and, for reasons I have blogged about previously, this is where the CS2 ends.
There should be no illusions about the Bow interchange. This is a junction designed for the movement of motorised vehicles and, in my opinion, was never designed with cyclists or pedestrians in mind. This can be ably illustrated by the fact that the lights have no pedestrian phase - pedestrians simply have no other way to cross these roads than running inbetween the flow of traffic. I think the fact that there aren't more deaths and injuries to cyclists or pedestrians at this junction is simply because so few actually use it -  I see few pedestrians and most cyclists do the same as me and get onto the flyover instead of using the roundabout.
According to questions to Boris, the Bow flyover has no pedestrian phase since TfL consider they cannot implement this without serious implications to traffic flow. 
This is simply unacceptable, and has to change. Stratford high street at this point was once industrial units, but now has blocks of flats springing up. And many local transport connections at this end are across the Bow junction. So more people will be wanting to walk and cycle across it. This is only going to increase with the regeneration of old industrial areas such as Sugar House Lane.

So what to do about junctions such as these? Look at the video I took several months ago when I used the roundabout Stratford bound

Firstly, it might be easy, and a bit glib, to say the whole thing needs to be re-designed. It does, but this is so unlikely that I would say we have more chance of James Martin  doing the tour-de-France. But the whole junction could be made more amenable for cyclists without having to radically change the entire junction.

For a start, this is a 30mph stretch of road. Does it look and feel like 30mph? No. The slip roads are very wide, the entrances and exits on the roundabout are designed for high speed. Surely traffic flow could be slowed and regulated, and cyclists helped by reducing the slip road entrances, by making the roundabout exits tighter. 

Secondly, the new CS2 paint segregates cyclists to the left as they travel around the roundabout, but then can put them in conflict with fast moving traffic as they merge on the A11 slip-road, or even worse, directly put them in the path of crossing traffic if the cyclist wishes to continue around the roundabout. This is simply poor design, which would normally be mitigated in Northern European countries by having the cycling lane take priority, or introducing cycle lights to aid cyclists.

Thirdly, the cycle-lane on the A11 slip road back up to the A11 is laughably narrow. Although I wasn't laughing at all when I had to use it with traffic squeezing past. The presence of the lane makes drivers think they should be able to squeeze past without crossing the double lines, but this, in reality is way too close. The cycle lane should be made wider to indicate the true space required by a cycle, and the double lines should be made dashed. 

Fourth, look at the parked vehicles. This was a Sunday, but after hours vehicles do park here during the week. The coach on the slip road is blocking CS2 and forcing cyclists out into the path of traffic travelling at speed down the motorway style slip-road. Parking here should be banned 24 hours a day.

Can you imagine anyone unable to walk quickly being able to negotiate this junction on foot? Or indeed would anyone cycle on this other than the battle-hardened?

The fundamental problem is that TfL et al. want us to cycle and walk more - but are not prepared to compromise traffic flow in order to help us do this. When such lack of compromise affects cycle infrastructure such as the superhighways to such a degree as seen at Bow, one hopes that talk about negligence on the part of those responsible for our streets gains momentum and forces a rethink.

My thoughts are with the family of the cyclist who died at this junction; the 14th cyclist to die on London's roads in 2011. TfL need to worry less about traffic flow and more about making our great city somewhere amenable for people. We owe it to all those killed to continue to lobby for more humane roads that will allow the pro-cycling and walking rhetoric of TfL, and local and national government to become reality.


  1. Great blog. I'll do my best to circulate it. Olivia

  2. I am Brian's Wife and I cannot come to terms with his needless death on such a negligent road layout. I am even more devastated to learn of the death of a young woman on the same roundabout as Brian less than 3 weeks later. I was at the reconstruction of Brian's collision and while I stood and watched the traffic, in 20 minutes 3 other cyclists were nearly hit. The superhighway encourages cyclists into it and then leads them to a very dangerous place. As said in Alice in Wonderland "drink me", these superhighways are saying "use me", what this one does not say is "deathtrap".

  3. Brian's wife - Whatever I write will be inadequate, but please accept my sincere condolences.

    I was at the organised ride of dangerous junctions today, I hope we are starting to see a real challenge to the unacceptable compromises that create dangerous junctions such as Bow.

    My thoughts are with you and your family.

  4. Every time I see something like this it makes me both sad and incredibly angry, because deaths like this are wholly avoidable.

    When is everyone (including bicycle advocates) going to take a good hard look at the studies that have been done (such as the 1998-99 Aultman-Hall studies in Canada and the 2007-08 Jensen and Agerholm studies in Denmark) and realize what the studies have been saying all along - bicycle paths and bike lanes (including the Superhighway) are INHERENTLY DANGEROUS!

    An unmarked road is safest to cycle on precisely because it does not insert any complications in the form of markings or coloured stripes. When cyclists behave as any other vehicle, people around them know how to deal with them. Segregation of any kind does not work and it creates an us vs. them mentality. The US found this out during the race riots of the 1960s. It applies equally to transportation.

    All that's needed for cyclists to be safe on the road is for transportation designers to switch their mentality from segregation to integration and start educating cyclists and drivers to use the road properly and to respect each other as equal users of the road. This worked from the 1890s all the way to the 1960s. As a proponent and practitioner of road cycling, I can assure everyone that there's no reason it can't work today.