Wednesday 21 August 2013

Why are Hackney's segregated cycle lanes being removed?

Across the world they're slowly copying the dutch and building segregated cycle lanes. From New York to Moscow and from India to London. Not surprising considering countries that build dedicated infrastructure for cyclists generally have a very high number of trips by bike and countries that mix cycling with fast moving motor traffic generally get very low model shares. You don't need to be a rocket scientist to figure out why. The vast majority of people in London do not cycle because they don't want to cycle with traffic but would if there were dedicated cycle lanes built

In my neighbourhood though they don't agree with this. Members of my local cycling campaign group regularly argue against cycle lanes on twitter, on blogs and on cycling forums. They also have a link on their website to negative research on cycle lanes, by John Franklin. Hence why 97% of children in Hackney do not cycle to school, compared to 53% that do in Amsterdam (89% across the Netherlands). So whilst others are finally getting on with building segregated cycle lanes, here in Hackney we're busy ripping them out. Here are a few examples.

Goldsmith's Row

This, along with London Fields is probably the area of Hackney that has the highest number of people cycling. From looking at a map you can see why. It links Hackney Central to Hackney Road via London fields so was always going to be the most popular route for people cycling from Hackney towards Shoreditch or Whitechapel as it is the quickest and shortest route. Even if it had no cycling infrastructure at all it would still continue to be the busiest route for people on bikes.

It used to have a segregated lane along it and google maps streetview caught images of it before it was removed

Goldsmith's Row used to be a busy rat run so was closed to motor vehicles last year leaving it open to cycles only.



Now many people will argue that this change is for the better and they'd have a very good argument. Goldsmith's Row is a marvellous route to cycle along and they've recently installed a cycle counter on it, as you can see in the picture above. However is was already a very good cycle route and had a perfectly decent enough segregated cycle track. It was already one of the best roads to cycle on in Hackney so you could argue that the money spent on this could have been better spent installing infrastructure elsewhere, or continuing the cycle track up to Broadway Market. The derelict Queen Elizabeth hospital for children that runs along the road will soon be converted into 188 characterless flats so it remains to be seen if this road will remain open for cycles only. 

Waterden Road

I've mentioned this road before. Originally built as the link road to Stratford International station it never opened as between it being built and being opened London won the bidding for the 2012 Olympics. It is now the main road through the Olympic Park but the segregated cycle lane was removed and replaced with a dual carriageway, with a shared cycle lane painted onto a new pedestrian bridge alongside.

Wick Road / Eastway

This one is the worst example.  I used to use this route regularly whilst on my way to cycling in the Essex countryside. In fact I've cycled all the way from Hackney to Amsterdam on two occasions and it always amused me that on the entire 80 mile ride from Hackney to Harwich this was the only segregated cycle infrastructure I would use, until I stepped foot in the Netherlands. Again we have to use google maps street view as a time machine to see it

It had a fantastic left turn cycle lane which allowed you to continue left onto Eastway when the lights were red, and more importantly, it removed the threat of being crushed by a left turning lorry, something you see in news reports in London far too often lately.

Here it is now, with the cycle lane removed.

Before, with someone cycling on the lane

After, with someone cycling on the pavement

The cycle lane here

replaced by a ridiculously large pavement here

And the exit from the lane here

replaced by car parking

It is a scandal that this lane was removed. Hackney should have been copying this junction and installing this exact kind of cycle lane at major junctions all over the borough. Not only that but TFL and other boroughs should have been copying it. Want to reduce lorry / cycle deaths at junctions? This is the way to do it, by physically separating them at junctions.

Now I'm not suggesting you just slap down cycle tracks on all the main roads in Hackney and everyone simply gets on their bike. They need careful planning to ensure they are all direct so they actually take you from A to B. They need to be wide enough to accommodate enough people who want to use them. More importantly they need to be safe, especially at junctions, and also designed to allow people to cross the road. Other infrastructure also needs to be in place where bikes and motor vehicles mix, and some of it already is in Hackney. Things like filtered permeability, one way roads for cars which allow bicycles to travel in both directions, road surfaces that use material like cobbles to slow traffic down, etc.

Until these lanes are built though the main roads in Hackney, like Mare Street, Kingsland Road and Old Street will continue to be dominated by motor traffic with most opting for the buses. You can talk about cycle training or 20mph limits but it won't make a difference. The vast majority of people simply will not cycle down a road like Old Street whilst they have to share it with buses and lorries. However they might if we look to other countries that have achieved far higher levels of people cycling than we have here in Hackney. Or engage with people that do not cycle in Hackney (the vast majority) and start to build the infrastructure that will get them onto their bikes.


  1. Could not agree more! I have been cycling in the borough for 30 years, and it is depressing having to argue the case for segregation. The case is now quite clear. If you want more folk to cycle, build for it. I love cycling here, and I am deeply aware that elsewhere is much worse, but Hackney could and should be kicking the arse off cycling. Compact, inner city borough with a young population. Cycling rates are stalling, and that is not good enough. Great blog!

  2. I can't comment on those left turn tracks, but I'm sure LCC in Hackney will know the story behind them. I suspect the benefit of not being left hooked at the lights might be outweighed by the collision risk at the exit of the track.
    On the Goldsmith row point I think you need to make a destinction between segregation by route and kerb segregated tracks along the carriageway. Hackney is rather good at the former, which is perhaps the reason for its success.
    On some of those filtered streets 90% of motor traffic has gone. No, they haven't fully segregated. But 90% segregation is in my view almost as good and achievable. If you count 90% segregation, you could argue that Hackney has probably the highest proportion of segregated facilities in London, maybe the UK.
    I'd say that ironically cycling in Hakney is as great as it is because of its many segregated cycle facilities. They are just not 100% segregated, nor the sort of track you see in NL.

  3. Are you genuinely suggesting that left-turn cycle lane was "fantastic"? What about the very real danger of being encouraged to cycle into a stream of fast-moving motor traffic once you've made the turn? Or the fact that it's only about 80cm wide?

    Is that what you saw in the Netherlands during your trips there, and what you aspire to here?

    And as @Gerhard Weiss points out above, Goldsmith's Row *IS* segregated. Just because it doesn't have a cycle track along it, doesn't mean it's not separated from motor traffic.

    The Dutch separate cycle and motor traffic in many ways, and tracks is just one of them.

    I actually agree with your proposition that major roads and junctions in Hackney need quality tracks to make them appealing to everyone, but I don't think this blogpost makes the case very well.

    1. Maybe "fantastic" was too strong a word but it is certainly much better than what it was replaced with. The cycle lane was a little narrow but certainly wide enough to go down single file without any issues, as you can clearly see with the guy cycling in the street view picture. Why was it removed though? Why wasn't the money instead spent on continuing it further down the road? Or widening it?

      As for Goldsmith's Row; I said in the post it is a fantastic scheme, I was just using it as an example of segregated lanes that had been removed. We should be building segregated cycle lanes, not ripping them out.

  4. Frankly, I like to see the Hackney Branch of the LCC expelled from the LCC. The South East part of the borough has had just about all of its cycle infrastructure removed. The juctions at Eastway and the A12 interchange, both having been completely rebuilt recently without any provision for cyclist whatsoever and with the sole purpose increasing traffic capacity and parking provisiion, are going to produce fatalties without a doubt. The dualcarriagewayising of Mare Street is an awful waste of road space. The removal of the Toucan crossing at the top of Broadway market is another retrograde step as is the installation of nasty pinchpoints all over the place.