Every 6 weeks or so, I like to go on a longish ride. I find it a good way to wind down and have a think, but I do take the odd photo of things of interest (yes, normally highway infrastructure - a geek, what can i say!). I am not on a racer and I am not doing a 100 mile Sunday ride, but it gets me out in the fresh air!
My favourite (and usual) Long Ride is to go to Borough Market, which has become one of my favourite places to visit in London because of the wonderful food on sale. The beauty of 2-wheels is that I can only buy what will fit in my bag and so I don't end up spending too much; plus it costs me nothing in travel apart from a pastry when I get there!
Anyway, this is not a travel or food blog, it is a highways blog. For the last 18 months or so that I have been doing my run to Borough, I have used a route which takes in the A118 and A11 (including Cycle Superhighway 2 - CS2). This route is direct, but pretty much mixing with traffic and so it is intimidating and dangerous and so on my way back last time, I noticed that one end of CS3 started off as a protected cycle track. It looked good and so my ride last Saturday included the whole length of CS3 in both directions and after the cyclist deaths in London over the last few weeks, my journey was all the more poignant given that we can protect people with infrastructure.
This is a photo-heavy post, but I think it will give a flavour of the route. I will comment on things I liked or didn't like as I go on and I will round up with some wider views at the end. So, starting at Barking and ending at Tower Gateway, here we go!
|My time (well back from Tower Gateway) was 45 minutes, but I was pushing a bit faster as I was on my way home. Going was longer as I kept stopping taking photos!|
|A little further on, CS3 goes into an underpass under Royal Docks Road. If you look closely, you will see that there is now a kerb upstand between the footway and cycletrack. This is pretty much now a separated facility. The underpass is easy to see straight through and feels quite open and there is no steep ramp either side - it is the road junction which ramps up (easier for engines than legs). My only criticism is that the lighting was a little dim for my liking.|
|Apart from the tactile paving being a bit wrong (too boring to explain here), here is a fantastic example of how large traffic signs should be installed so that they are not in the way of pedestrians or cyclists. In addition, the sign is passively safe; the posts will collapse should a vehicle hit them rather than stoving the vehicle into the occupants. Also, it is impossible to lose your way here!|
|Here is where the route crosses Forty Acre Lane. It is one example of an issue which pops up quite a bit on the A13 section and that is how side roads are treated. Where they are busy with traffic, there tends to be a Toucan crossing with multiple crossing points (because of traffic capacity as usual). Where side roads are quieter, the route bends into the side road, but traffic still has priority, possibly because it is leaving a 50mph motorway (pretty much). Not great for continuity and I am sure can be reworked at many locations.|
|So, we leave the A13 as we sail over East India Dock Road (it is already buried, Boris) and head towards Docklands.|
|Now things get weird. At the junction of Saffron Avenue and Oregano Drive (after losing my way a bit as the signage is crap), you are put back on the carriageway and...|
|You are presented with a barrier to a private estate. Large parts of Docklands are privately owned and managed, but you just carry on up to the barrier, an unseen finger presses a button to raise the barrier.|
|The signage between the barrier and your next public road is awful. I did a complete loop around Clove Crescent before I worked it out. You can just see the blue diamond on the paving (actually a large open plaza) which you are meant to follow!|
|The diamonds carry on into the distance (my circles!)|
|At the other end of the plaza, the now familiar Superhighway "totem" sign telling me I have reached East India DLR (which is just the other side of the wall) and given there is a trial to allow cycles on the railway off peak, things are coming together well!|
|Naval Row now. A narrow, low speed, little street which doesn't go anywhere, so good for cycling.|
|Junction of Navel Row and Poplar High Street (above the Blackwall Tunnel). Poplar High Street starts off quiet, but at its junction with Cotton Street, we are back in Advanced Stop Line country and traffic domination - probably the worst part of the route and there is no photo as I couldn't stop safely!|
|Just round the corner there is a stash of Cycle Hire bikes!|
|A familiar style of information point which can be seen all over Central London. TfL has kept the design process rigid and the brand is instantly recognisable. There is also a Legible London Map if you want to head off and away from CS3.|
|The bustle (and the not feeling as safe) of Poplar High Street gives way to Ming Street which, for traffic, doesn't go anywhere; CS3 carries on regardless.|
|Next, a crossing over West India Dock Road. I couldn't work out how the traffic signals had detected me as there was no push button - I assume there are buried detection loops (there is a stop line for cyclists). There was a slight problem with the cycle traffic signals as I was concentrating on the far signal head circled in red to start, before I realised mine was the other one circled in green. |
This is a classic example of "see through" where the human eye focuses on more distant objects. Had the signal opposite been green, I may well have moved off into traffic. Because we are forced to use full-sized traffic signals for cycles at the moment, this is not an acceptable layout. Smaller, low level signals on the post closest to the stop line would be the natural answer here, so let's hope TfL can bully the government into allowing them.
|Let's take a closer look at the push button. This is like a Pelican Crossing push button, but for cycles (a Toucan). I have never seen this version of push button before and so was mildly interested as a highways geek. I assume it was being used because the approach was not right for detection loops.|
|The route goes back on carriageway, but again, an area which looks pretty quiet and does not really go anywhere other than serving the people who live there (no rat running). Conditions might be worse during the week, but here we approach the bridge over the point where the Grand Union Canal connects to the River Thames.|
|Next, the route crosses the Limehouse Link (another buried road) and nips through the well-kept St. James Gardens and then over Butcher Row.|
|And then into Cable Street where CS3 becomes a two-way segregated shared-use facility, with traffic being asked to give way to the cycle track - this is getting good again!|
|The route crosses to the other side at one point, but Cable Street consists of a narrow one-way carriageway which is pretty heavily traffic calmed with speed tables and so feels safe.|
|This photo is of a gully grid and a kerb, but they are not as boring as you might think! The gully grid is a "waffle" type and so no losing wheels down it. Plus, it give a clue to how Cable Street once was. The water on the cycle track falls from the carriageway side towards the footway and this is a classic Copenhagen-style retrofit where the cycle track is built over the old carriageway which would have been two-way before. A new gully goes in the narrowed carriageway and is piped back to the original gully which gets a new grating and drains the cycle track! You can also see the 20mm kerb upstand between the cycle track and footway.|
|At zebra crossings, things get a bit painty, but cyclists need to give way to pedestrians and actually, it works just fine.|
|Here we are at the other end of the route at Tower Gateway. Again, we have the familiar "totem" sign, but this shows the other side of it which carries a map.|
|Cable Street: October 2009 - a single frame in Google|
Image from Google Streetview.
Additionally, and after a chance conversation with a colleague who knows the inner areas of London better than I do, it seems that as well as the A13, some of the other good stuff (Cable Street) was already there. I don't know if the whole route was joined up before CS3, but my journey has me calling it as I saw it, but credit must go to the designers who did lots of things before the Mayor.
But, CS3 is mainly wonderful. If feels safe as you are either protected from traffic or it has to move slowly and give way to you; anyone within a few miles should try it out. CS3 should be basic provision in London and indeed any UK city. Cable Street shows how one-way systems for traffic can release whole areas for cycling. The next time I have a run into town, I think it will be the kerbs and tarmac of CS3 and not the blue paint of CS2!