Thursday 18 September 2014

London's Proposed North-South / East-West Cycle Superhighways: Deeper Benefits

For those interested in cycling matters in London and perhaps further afield, you will of course know about Transport for London's proposals by now.

The consultations are running now for the North-South and East-West routes and you have until 19th October to make your views known. I am not going to blog about the proposals in detail, plenty of other people already have and there is nothing I really want to add on the technical side at this stage. I would say that this is the golden opportunity to deploy simultaneous greens, free left turns and the like.

There may be concerns about some of the details of the layouts, concerns about how they can be delivered, that they might get watered down and of course that the usual suspects have come out against the schemes. These were going to be issues anyway and now is the time to challenge the dogma head on and consign the opinions of those people looking to the past to plan our cities for the future, well, to the past.

For me, the plans are vital because it would mean that we would have highway space specifically allocated for cycling (without taking it away from pedestrians), giving space to those wanting to take up riding as a form of transport in its own right. More important than that, it will help show that a proper and coordinated approach on direct routes can be made to work and most importantly (for me at least), it will be a demonstration to highway and traffic engineers, planners and politicians; and the general population that it can be done.

The layout at Bow in East-London is safe-ish (don't write in please),
but bikes always have to stop and pedestrians have bugger all to help
them, but things are shuddering in the right direction.
We don't have all of the tools yet, but as the emerging London Cycling Design Standards suggest, adaptability will be an important consideration for London cycling infrastructure going forward.

We may end up with some "always stop" junctions, but we can now use low level signals. We don't yet have mini-zebra crossings (without Belisha beacons) for cycle tracks to give pedestrians priority where needed (IHE - you have the DfT's ear on this,have a word please), but we can muddle on for now - we will be able to adapt as time goes on and the rules and regulations catch us up to keep on improving and to make the next scheme better.

These routes have to be the proving grounds for our engineers. We technical types need to ride the layouts to understand them. We need to share the experiences, and we need to take the good aspects away and push them into our own schemes. Although I know full well how far we are behind other cities across the world, London (and the rest of the country) needs to find its own way to some extent and develop layouts which work for us - that is not to suggest for a minute, we shouldn't push for regulatory change.

These two schemes will only happen if people get behind them. The London Cycling Campaign has made it easy to respond and so please take a couple of minutes to visit their website. There is also the new Cycling Works website where you can get help in getting your employer to support the proposals.

For those readers who are professional engineers, architects, planners, public health experts, academics and the like, lobby your professional and educational institutions to respond in support of the proposals. I have membership of three engineering institutions, all based in London. The Institution of Civil Engineers has the East-West route running past the front door of One Great George Street for goodness sake! The Chartered Institution of Highways & Transportation and the Institution of Highway Engineers have their HQs within a mile and a half of both of the routes. I have tweeted all three asking for support (as is the modern way) and I hope colleagues will follow suit and make contact too - they have powerful voices.

It is worth those three institutions realising that these are proper civil engineering projects in their own right, but have many other linkages to areas of life such as public health and transport poverty which I know are topics important to many within the institutions and the wider membership. Also, don't forget that our members will also be involved in the design and construction of these schemes and frankly, it will also keep people like us in work for years to come.

We have been here before. Until this point, we have always made the wrong choice. We have always tried to maintain business as usual for motor traffic and time and again, it has been proved (with evidence) that we got it wrong. I really hope these schemes go ahead and as I hope I have suggested, the benefits are far deeper than they first appear. Above all, I hope they shake up our design culture and change it for the better. Only then will we see the benefits ripple out beyond the boundaries of the Capital.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your link to our site Ranty. Worth reminding everyone, that our biggest supporter in terms of staff came from a single well crafted email. That's all it takes!

    Exciting times ahead.