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. Â Mostly this involved agreement that it was ‘not good enough’ ‘dangerous’ ‘just blue paint’. Â All had historically told the Mayor that changes were needed – in some cases in great detail. Â 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. Â 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. Â 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. Â He started controversially by stating that “not even the best engineering in the world could have stopped the deaths at Bow”. Â 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’. Â 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. Â 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). Â This would involve removal of bus lanes in some stretches and partial removal of footways. Â It would also mean the removal of 7 mature trees and would need to deal with 57 ‘unsignalised’ side roads. Â 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: Â 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. Â 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. Â 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. Â 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. Â 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 Â 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. Â AG said that this was something that could be rectified quite quickly. Â 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!]
AG said that 20mph limits were being put in place in ‘some locations’. Â 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. Â 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. Â 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:Â https://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.