Sunday 22 January 2012

Pavement Parking Pandemonium

The tarting up of the streets of Leyton and Leytonstone for the Olympics is now well under way (Waltham Forest use the phrase "improving the streetscape" instead of "tarting up" but I suspect you get the general principle).

Pavements are being dug up around the area such as this area of Leytonstone High Road.

This "improving the streetscape" has been in operation for a little while, and appears to consist of the council digging up the pavement, installing expensive stone blocks in attractive patterns, and then allowing cars to park on the result. Here, in true Blue Peter fashion, is one they made earlier...

One can see the nice arrangement of stone blocks just waiting to be covered up by parked cars. I have to say the whole effect of "improving the streetscape" is somewhat undermined for me by the globs of uneven tarmac scattered along the edge of the road. And yes, dear reader, you are right to assume that the bits of uneven red tarmac with the liberal smatterings of  potholes and jutting out kerbstones is the cycle lane. Inviting, no? Waltham Forest may be planning on re-surfacing the road, but I wouldn't bet my house on it.

Meanwhile, the roads which have had this treatment for a while appear to be causing motorists some confusion. Consider this 4x4 parked in Wood Street the other week.

A CCTV enforcement car was taking some interest in it as it is illegally parked on the pavement. But on the other side of the road the cars are legally parked on some of those fancy stone blocks which have been installed for around six months. In fact the gap left for pedestrians by some of the legally parked cars on this road is less than the gap you can see between the 4x4 and the wall. There were spaces behind the cars on the other side of the road for the driver of the Land Rover to park. Maybe the driver is exceptionally lazy and couldn't be bothered to cross the road (there are no crossing points for pedestrians anywhere near, but that is OK since the building on the right only houses a popular indoor playcentre - so no need to help families with young children surely?). Or maybe the driver saw all the pavement parking along the whole length of this road and didn't understand that this is only OK if the car is parked on some expensive fancy stones as opposed to everywhere? Who knows?

Monday 16 January 2012

I remember when all this was fields...

Draper's fields to be exact.


Drapers Field - to be shut for 2 years


Draper's fields have been given to the ODA for the period of around a year and a half to accommodate logistics services for the Olympic village (seen in the background of the second photo). 

A BBC report on the the community usage of Draper's fields can be found here. The site was playing fields and an astroturf pitch used by a local school and clubs. According to this report in the local paper, the astroturf pitch was used by 1,380 (an oddly precise number!) people a week alone. The report also headlines with the fact that the site may be used for VIP parking - something not in any planning documents I have seen, so either the ODA are keeping very quiet about this, or it is an unfounded rumour.

Now, I understand that the large Olympic village will require logistics support on an equally large scale. I also understand that open space near the Olympic village may be in short supply, and Draper's field is ideally situated. It is unfortunate that the open space is one of the few in this part of Waltham Forest, and will mean that clubs and local schools will not have access to it for more than a year.

The council have been compensated £3.5M by the ODA, which they say will go to turning back the site to an even better sports facility - with the fields opening again for the public in September 2013. They say that the compensation will not only allow redevelopment of the Drapers site, but will go towards improvements in other parks as well. What concerns me most is that I haven't managed to find any documents relating to what the redevelopment after the games will actually involve. The planning statement from the ODA (found as pdf here) is very light on use after the games since Waltham Forest will be in charge of the "legacy component" (I presume this means that Waltham Forest will be given the site as is and will then change it back to leisure use themselves). Waltham Forest were going to submit plans for the changes to the field after the games, but I haven't been able to find any details of these plans online (or indeed any mention of them).

After the ongoing saga of the arcade site, I prefer not to trust Waltham Forest with regeneration plans, especially ones that are unspecified before the event occurs. Maybe I am just not a trusting soul. I would be interested to know if Waltham Forest indeed have plans for the field that are available for the public. 

Saturday 14 January 2012

Smile - it could be worse...

... and then I smiled and it steadily got worse...

Not only have we the insipid Bow Roundabout design from TfL - one that delays cyclists twice as long as other traffic yet gives them barely any extra protection anyway -  but there appears to be even more bad news.

I was reading a blog on the Bow Flyover by "Over The Hills and Faraway",  which was commenting on the proposed Bow Flyover changes. (I am reading all I can about the changes in the hope that TfL are actually playing an early April Fools joke and I have missed the announcement that they were only kidding, and will, of course, be implementing something half reasonable.)

So imagine my concern when I read in the blog:

The Highway Authority for the Bow Roundabout Flyover and the road immediately to the east of the roundabout (Stratford High Street) is the London Borough of Newham. TfL has commenced discussions with Newham to seek approval where changes to accommodate these options may be required on their roads.

So, decisions to implement the flyover plan will rest with Newham council. Remember them? Yes, the  oligarchy run by Sir Robin Wales - the mayor who hates cycling enough to block the Cycle superhighway extending to the games for the Olympics (although they say they can look at it after the games - yeah, great). The mayor that banned the woodcraft folk, from a council cabinet meeting because they were going to protest about the laughable cycling facilities in the borough. I mean he actually barred the woodcraft folk! Maybe the council cabinet were too busy polishing all those chandeliers...

So it is probably fair to say that if you are a cyclist who needs to negotiate the Bow junction... well we are truly f*ck*d.

Call me Nostradamus if you wish, but I have some predictions for the future of cycling at the Bow Flyover:

TfL will implement the bow roundabout "early start" cycle "facility" as is, despite protests from cyclists and cycling groups. Meanwhile the Bow flyover plan will fall into the pit of despair that is Nehwam council's transport department, never to be seen again. Or maybe it will end up in cubicle 3 of the bathroom facilities, where its absorbency qualities are thoroughly tested...

Meanwhile motorists will continue to disregard the bow roundabout ASLs - especially since the traffic will be queueing at peak times anyway and no-one ever polices ASLs - so even the minuscule advantage given to cyclists with the scheme will be lost. Cyclists will get royally p*ssed off waiting twice as long as the motorists at the junction in order to be left hooked anyway, and will decide to jump the filter lights or ignore the filter lane altogether. Near misses will continue. People will complain. Police will clamp down at the junction - not at ASL encroaching motorists - but by fining cyclists not availing themselves of the magnificent facilities bestowed by TfL. Meanwhile TfL will put on their worried face again and drivel on about "cycle training" and the London Mayor will explain how he has absolutely no issues with the junction, positively enjoys it, and is stunned that anyone "with their wits about them" would have a problem. Most cyclists will continue ignoring the lethal roundabout and negotiate their way onto, and over, the flyover with absolutely no help from the road layout at all. TfL will announce the cost of the scheme implementation, which will be at least three times as much as any reasonable person could conceive it could possibly cost. Since computer modelling to ensure motor vehicles aren't inconvenienced in the slightest costs serious wedge. And then everyone carries on as normal with TfL slipping their time-scale for 5% model share by another 20 years, and hoping that some more promotional videos with minor celebrities will get everyone leaping on their cycles.

Friday 13 January 2012

Bow(ing) to traffic flow?

In my previous post, I was cheered by TfL's response to the issues at Bow for cyclists. There appeared to be additions of cycle only lights to separate cycles and traffic wishing to turn onto the A12, as well as the consideration of cycle lanes over the flyover with light controls to aid cyclists on and off of the flyover.

So far, so good. For those who use the flyover, a way of being able to access it without trying to control a very wide lane of traffic splitting between the roundabout and the flyover, and for those who prefer the roundabout some lights to safely allow cyclists to proceed past the exit slips to the A12.

I was pleasantly surprised that these measures were being implemented, especially on the roundabout where previous suggestions at "Toucan" crossings for pedestrians and cyclists were dismissed by TfL as being too disruptive to "traffic flow". It looked like "traffic flow" (meaning, presumably traffic with an engine as opposed to traffic without) was taking less priority to safety at last.

However, I might be being cynical, but I am suddenly becoming very sceptical of these new plans, after looking at the plans and videos on the TfL site. Specifically these two videos

Now, the text indicates that the improvement is :

A cycle 'early-start' phase at the traffic signals on the eastbound and westbound entrance to the Bow roundabout. This would provide a dedicated green light phase to allow cyclists to travel ahead of other traffic 

But is this actually tying up with the videos (which is the entrance to Bow Roundabout Eastbound)?

I say this because the change appears to be a set of cycle lights in the cycle filter lane which controls cyclists entering the (larger) ASL. Once in the ASL, the cyclists are controlled by the standard lights which are green for both vehicles and cyclists.

So what would be the point of that?

Well, I suspect that the cycle lights go red when the standard lights are green to stop cyclists moving into the ASL and progressing through the junction with the traffic.

So conflict is being stopped by only allowing cyclists to progress at the green traffic light who are already ahead of the traffic in the ASL. If this is the case, then cyclists arriving at the junction at the green traffic light will be held in the filter lane by the red cycle light until the general traffic lights go red. Then the cycle lights will go green to allow the cyclists to proceed to the ASL where they will have to wait for a full rotation of the standard lights before being able to proceed when the standard traffic lights go green.

No wonder TfL isn't worried about "traffic flow" - the disruption is to cyclists, and not motorised vehicles. Also there are a few issues on top of the fact that, if this is a correct interpretation of the scheme, it will be massively inconvenient to cyclists :

1) The "early start" phase doesn't look like an early start at all. It looks like a standard head-start given by the gap in a deeper ASL. Slower cyclists will surely still come into conflict with vehicles if the vehicles are driven aggressively and the cyclist is slow. How big is the ASL to give a decent enough head-start? How fast will a cyclist need to pedal to avoid agressively accelerating cars?

2) Won't the ASL simply be populated with the normal assortment mopeds, taxis, and cars as per many other ASLs? In which case there won't be any advantage given to cyclists at all.

3) What happens if the roundabout gets backed up (as it often does)? Not only will this fill the ASL with vehicles, but the vehicles already on the roundabout may end up conflicting with the "early start" cyclists from the ASL.

I hope I have misread the video. I have watched it a few times and cannot see how else the scheme works. If I am correct in reading the scheme, then TfL will be making very little safety improvements, at the expense of delaying cyclists for a couple of traffic light cycles. It doesn't seem like much of a step forward.

I hope I am wrong...

Thursday 12 January 2012

Bow Roundabout Update

I saw this article on the BBC website today.

After the Bow cyclist fatalities last year, TfL and the Mayor promised a review and report on the junction. This was in November, and as a general member of the public, I hadn't heard much since. Hence my scepticism   when I saw some large yellow warning signs appear a month or so ago.

It appears, however, that the junction has been reviewed, and TfL have some possible alterations in mind.

1) Addition of cycle lights on the Bow roundabout to give cyclists a headstart over the traffic.
2) Addition of cycle lanes on the flyover with lights to allow easy access for cyclists to the flyover.

The second proposal would see the east-bound carriage-way reduced from two to one traffic lane to implement a cycle lane, and presumably west-bound, the hatchings would be reworked to accommodate a cycle lane there.

In my opinion, both these suggestions show the start of some sensible changes. Most cyclists I see use the flyover now, as do I, so I would err towards option 2 if I had to choose (or maybe TfL could implement both?!). Traffic over the flyover is typically very light - I am amazed at how few cars use it (most are going onto the A12 it would appear) even in rush hour. So reducing the lane count shouldn't cause disruption to motor-traffic. 

The first option also looks promising, but only if the lights really create a safe route for cycles. Since all cyclists will be going in one direction (back onto the A11 slip road - the A12 is prohibited for cycles), I would have thought some cycle priority signals could be able worked with pedestrian crossing time, thus making the junction permeable for both cyclists and people on foot. I would prefer the flyover option because the roundabout is simply horrible for cyclists, and I would need to be convinced about any solutions that TfL have implemented to make it safer and more usable.

Leon Daniels said that TfL are committed to implement improvements before the Olympics. Which is an ambitious deadline considering that this is only 6 months or so away.

This news looks positive from TfL. From the small amount of information in the news report, it looks like the options have been thought out - I didn't think anything involving lights for the motor traffic would be considered because of "traffic smoothing" considerations, so TfL have surprised me with these proposals.

Here is hoping that the ideas, which sound good on paper, translate into some good facilities to allow permeability across the barrier that is currently the Bow interchange.

Sunday 8 January 2012

Nero fiddles...

The 2012 competition for the James Martin  award is off to a flying start - the accolade for most obnoxious rant against cyclists in a newspaper may be won before the year has properly started!

This time, instead of being a cook who sharpens his pen against the lycra louts, it is the MD of "Radio Exeter" in this piece.

To properly appreciate the invective that Paul Nero has unleashed upon us anti-social cyclists, I have picked out some passages.

SO I'm driving through the ridiculous 20 mile-an-hour system that's been designed to stop people going to Topsham when there's a decision to make. Should I knock this ignorant cyclist off his bike, blast my horn so that he is in no doubt about my displeasure, or slow down further so that the tailback that's built up between the rugby ground and the roundabout becomes longer still?

Thus starts the article - with no punches pulled on the stupidity of a 20mph speed limit. Clearly the yoghurt knitting town planners have put pedestrians and residents above Mr Nero's ability to go from A-B in his car. Outrageous! Don't they know who he is? Clearly, as MD of Exeter Radio  he has places to go, deals to strike, important meetings to attend. Small provincial radio stations don't simply run themselves without some hard work by people like Mr Nero, and pedestrians and other road users simply need to understand the importance of people such as him travelling between traffic lights as quickly as possible.

And then to make matters worse - there is one of those appalling cyclists in Mr Nero's way. You have to start to feel his pain at that point. This cyclist appears, from Mr Nero's article, to be impeding progress to the next tailback! Hence the author's dilemma - to quietly fume or knock this upstart aside?

Someone who doesn't understand the importance of Mr Nero's progress around the back roads of Dorset might wonder if it is a proportionate response to consider causing injury or worse to another human who impedes their progress by a minute or two. Some who don't understand the distress might wonder if this sounds just a teeny bit psychotic. They might wonder if cyclists are singled out for this retribution or whether Mr Nero metes out such summary justice to anyone who slows him down. What would be his response if Mr Nero was delayed by, say, an elderly couple at  the front of the checkout queue hunting for change? One might imagine that he would consider a decision between fuming behind them or punching them repeatedly in the face until they stepped aside. After all Mr Nero is a busy man; who wouldn't blame him for resorting to such summary justice?

But the cyclist is in luck. Mr Nero is not a man who forgets he is a role-model in society.

As a responsible citizen I slow down. I fume. And I add fumes. Slow-moving traffic wastes fuel and adds to carbon emissions. Idiots who ignore cycle paths should appreciate that future generations of children will drown as global warming wipes out Lympstone. And it's their fault.

Here, Mr Nero's impeccable logic cuts through the eco babble. Those pesky cyclists think they might be helping reduce pollution by using transport which doesn't produce any, but they actually cause hapless motorists like Mr Nero to add to carbon emissions. Do cyclists not realise that Mr Nero is actually helping to save the planet when he drives quickly? For Christ's sake why don't they think of the children?! Thoughtless lycra clad bastards. 

As Mr Nero points out - it is all their fault for daring to use the roads.

I could go on, but I think I should let Mr Nero's rapier-like penmanship do the talking. 

Except to say that those who wish to know more about the hero behind the devastating expose on cyclists may be interested to know that, as well as the comments section on the article linked there are other ways to show your appreciation for his work.

Such as on Exeter FMs facebook page here. (Mr Nero appears to be wilting a little in the comments on this page, so any support from people appreciative of his article would surely be welcome..)

Wednesday 4 January 2012


Ruminating on the year just past, I remembered the "Tour De Danger", and the two deaths on CS2 at Bow roundabout which happened just before this event.

The pressure from the media and the London assembly prompted TfL to say that they were going to review all SuperHighway junctions and report back on the bow roundabout as a matter of urgency. This was reported on 18th November 2011.

Has the urgent report been compiled and delivered yet?

What I have seen are a series of large yellow notices asking Drivers to be nice to cyclists, and for cyclists to try to avoid traffic. Such as this one below

I am not really sure how effective the signs are going to be. Especially this one, which had been twisted around to face the pavement. As a cyclist using this road, I might prefer a lowered and policed speed limit whilst the design is considered.