Recent February News

This is a news update since our last meeting.

    • Our representations for cycle contraflow for Cramner and Sandringham Rds one way schemes have been agreed in principle and have been fed into the system.  This element of the scheme will need to be republished and re-consulted, which will take some time.
  • Ward by ward audits are progressing.  Most of the north of the borough has been covered and priority minor schemes for increased permeability have been identified. The work done may be consolidated in a daylong workshop to prioritise the use of the available funding, the exact amount of which should become clear after the mini-Holland outcome is known.
  • The Mini-Holland outcome should be known by mid-March.  Fingers still crossed.
  • Our annual meeting will take place on 31 March 2014 at CoffeE7.  It will be mostly a social/celebration.  Light catering will be provided.  Councillor Christie, who has done so much to progress cycling in the Borough, has been invited.  On the formal side we have to elect officers.  For the last few years we have not filled all the posts so volunteers/nominations are very welcome.  To me at any time before the meeting.
  • The (almost) one million pounds awarded to Newham by TfL to promote the mayor’s vision for cycling will be used primarily for cycle parking and cycle training, and also to develop a Borough cycle strategy.
  • I have received a consultation on the extension of the Stratford NE controlled Parking Zone.  I could identify no particular cycling issues, but if anyone would like to see it please let me know.
  • I have also received a consultation to add Helena Rd Plaistow to the 20mph region around Plaistow.  We have commented on this to urge the inclusion of Upper St.  It is also re-enacting most of the one way systems in the area.  In line with our policy of pressing for cycle contraflows I suggest responding that in re-enacting the one ways provision should be made for cycle contraflows.  Comments welcome.
  • Finally, don’t forget the Newham Ride on 15 March starting 10.00am at the ViewTube.

Meeting with Dutch Transport students

Notes from Lisa, Bill & Olawale on their meeting with a group of Dutch students in London to study the Bow roundabout & cycling in London generally.
DUTCH SCHEME IS BASED ON ‘LIVEABLE CITIES’
  • Based on education, infrastructure and mutual respect.
  • Number of people moving into/returning to live in cities rising compared to 30 yrs ago.
  • Cycling is main way people shop as supermarkets are never more than 1km away from residential areas.
  • Cycling supports local shops and businesses as a result.
  • Netherlands, like UK doesn’t see high rates of cycling within different ethnic groups.
IT TOOK THE DUTCH 35YRS TO GET TO WHERE THEY ARE NOW
  • 1970’s cycling rates in Holland low but death rates (especially amongst children) was high.  As cycling rates increased to around 40% in the 1980/90’s the death rate fell.
  • Dutch now have high rate of cyclists of all ages.
  • Cycling is main form of transport for the majority of Dutch citizens.
  • Most Dutch cyclists don’t have driving licences – license holder numbers have declined.
  • Car ownership in the Netherlands is expensive – taxation/licensing and especially parking.  A Dutch car owner will pay approximately the same amount monthly as a UK car owner does annually.
  • Dutch have financial incentives to encourage cycling – UK cyclists can claim commuter miles against tax.
  • Dutch provide free & secure cycle parking so theft rates of bicycles is low and parking easy.
  • Education and cycling awareness begins at primary level in Holland – children are allowed to cycle on pavements until the age of 6yrs and then they are on the roads.
UK/LONDON CYCLING
  • Discussed how cars are still priority in UK – seen as status symbols/aspirational goal by some – cycling viewed as an activity for children or as ‘poor man’s transport’.
  • Discussed the tensions between London pedestrians, cyclists and drivers and how all needed to be aware and have respect for others using the same space.
  • Mentioned that Highway Code needed to be updated and the way people taught to drive needed to have more emphasis on pedestrian and cyclist  priority.
  • TFL and SUSTRANS should demonstrate cohesion of information/planning policy and education for cyclists and drivers.
  • Need borough to borough cohesion regarding quiet routes and through ways together with reasoned enforcement.
  • Discussed the possibility of introducing some form of ‘presumed liability’ (also known as ‘stricter liability’) in relation to accidents with motorised/non-motorised traffic which is commonplace in most Western European countries.

BOW ROUNDABOUT & POLITICS OF CYCLING

  • Light phasing for cycle lights very short.
  • No provision for safe pedestrian access or through-way.
  • Dutch angle turning points to maximise view for vehicle drivers.
  • Discussed problems with CS2 into city and danger of encouraging novice cyclists onto this ‘safe’ route.
  • Had a lengthy discussion on segregated cycle paths – in Holland cyclists have priority at side road junctions unlike here. This means they can continue their journey without stopping at every side road (as with CS2).  This will need a sea change in attitude –  from motor traffic having priority in Britain to cycling being seen as a form of transport instead of a leisure activity!
  • Discussed the issue of  inadequate cycling provision and reactionary policy making by government – responding to protests such as those organised by LCC last summer (which some of the Dutch students at Bow attended).
  • As politics are reactionary there is no real cohesive London-wide plan from Councils and very little mention of the ecological and health benefits a long-term cycling policy could provide.
  • Discussed that LCC was the voice of sense and reason and the only real power that cyclists had to influence government policy.
  • We were also asked if we thought that the Norman Foster designs for an overhead cycling road were practical, desirable or a good use of the money assigned for cycling.  It was agreed that the plans were wonderful but far-fetched and would cost more money than was available – the money  could be put to far better use by fixing major junctions and trouble spots throughout London, Bow included.

CS2 Safety Summit

Last Thursday I attended the CS2 ‘Summit’ at City Hall, organised by John Biggs (Assembly Member for East London and Labour’s mayoral candidate for the next London mayoral elections). Forgive me if this is a bit disjointed – I scribbled a lot of notes!

The panel consisted of:

  • Darren Johnson (Green Party AM)
  • Caroline Pidgeon (Lid Deb AM)
  • Valerie Shawcross (Labour AM & Chair of the Transport Committee)
  • John Biggs
  • Ashok Sinha (Chief Exec of LCC)
  • Andrew Gilligan (Mayor’s Cycling Commissioner

Both Councillor David Christie & Richard Lewis were in the audience from Newham.

Each member of the panel gave a brief introduction of who they were and what their positions were in relation to CS2.  Mostly this involved agreement that it was ‘not good enough’ ‘dangerous’ ‘just blue paint’.  All had historically told the Mayor that changes were needed – in some cases in great detail.  It was generally agreed that the Mayor/TFL’s policy of ‘smoothing traffic’ was a barrier to reallocating road space to cyclists.

Valerie Shawcross said that there was a strong cross party feeling within the Assembly that London is ready for a cycling revolution – that people really understood the benefits of cycling (environmental, health, economy etc).

Caroline Pidgeon reminded everyone that Boris had promised a review of junctions 2 years ago and this has not happened.  She repeatedly stated throughout the evening that things just weren’t happening quickly enough.

Darren Johnson said that the ‘idea’ of Cycle Superhighways was a good one – but that they needed to be properly thought out.  He said that CS2 gives a false sense of security. He was also supportive of a 20mph speed limit in London.

It was then Andrew Gilligan’s turn.  He started controversially by stating that “not even the best engineering in the world could have stopped the deaths at Bow”.  This comment was not received well by the audience or by Ashok Sinha, who later stated that there were no issues with ‘left hooks’ in Holland.

Gilligan admitted that CS2 was ‘not good enough’ and that the Bow-Aldgate section really was ‘just blue paint’.  He also said that everyone in the room wanted the same thing, it was just a matter of how it was achieved and at what speed.  An assessment of traffic at Bow had shown 1900 cyclists and 4500 motor vehicles (of which 1500 were buses).

He then went on to outline the 3 options for improvement to the Bow-Aldgate section of CS2:

Option 1: Fully segregated 2m cycle lane, one way in each direction (similar to the Stratford-Bow section).  This would involve removal of bus lanes in some stretches and partial removal of footways.  It would also mean the removal of 7 mature trees and would need to deal with 57 ‘unsignalised’ side roads.  Although he was somewhat vague about the timing on this, he eventually said that it could be done by late 2014/early 2015.

Option 2:  This was the most radical of the options and involves the creation of a central track for cyclists. It would go over the flyover, taking out the need to negotiate the Bow roundabout and would mean less issues with buses and remove the issue of the side roads.  However they had not yet worked out how to get cyclists on & off it!

Option 3: The simplest and quickest option involved semi-segregated cycle lanes – widened bus lanes with traffic ‘wands’ and inset bus stops.  This could be achieved in 6-7 months.

All options include a full set of ‘cyclised’ junctions as well as the segregation of the Aldgate Gyratory. There were also plans in place for a parallel ‘Quietway’ running from Old Montague Street to the Olympic Park, but this needed input/approval from Tower Hamlets council and was not yet finalised.

Once the session was opened to the floor, some interesting comments and suggestions were made.  People were very passionate – understandably so, given what’s at stake.

Several people commented on the Stratford extension not being perfect – in particular the left turn at Warton Road was mentioned.  A Bikeability instructor also pointed out that in places, cyclists were forced into ‘secondary position’ on the left of the road, rather than being able to take primary position. AG said that the Warton Road junction was being addressed (as are the flooding/pooling issues in the areas around the bus stops).

Rick Andrew  from LCC talked about how the elimination of ‘left hooks’ needed to be a priority and that this had no impact on traffic flow.

Gerry from TH Wheelers talked specifically about the light phasing at the Bow roundabout, the cyclists needed longer.  AG said that this was something that could be rectified quite quickly.  Gerry also requested that the blue paint be removed as it was just making things worse. [Note – on the roundabout, the blue paint has now been removed – not sure whether this is in response or not!]

Generally:

AG said that 20mph limits were being put in place in ‘some locations’.  He also admitted that currently bike lanes are the last thing to be cleared in snow, but that new maintenance standards were to be put in place.

Valerie Shawcross said that the culture of Highway Engineering is still based on creating space for cars.  She pointed out that Dutch style roads are not ‘rocket science’.

John Biggs pointed out that as well as infrastructure, it was about behaviour and education.  He also said that the idea of a central cycle lane on this route terrified him. This is something completely new and he suggested that it should be trialled elsewhere, rather than on this dangerous piece of road.

Rhiannon Redpath (organiser of the 38 degrees petition – sign it here if you haven’t already: http://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/save-our-cyclists) stated that we (cyclists) are not asking for fast or ‘panic’ changes – we are just asking for changes and we want to know when those changes will happen.