Saturday, 24 February 2018

Cycling with buses in Hackney

Hackney has a lot of buses and therefore a lot of bus lanes. Cycling is allowed in all of these bus lanes and whilst this might be slightly better than cycling on the main carriageway, sharing space with buses is still not a comfortable experience that most of the population of the borough are willing to take up. There have been claims in the past that buses are more dangerous than lorries to cyclists in London and I wondered just what the collision and injury rate is in Hackney between buses and people cycling. A few years ago I wrote about cycle injuries and fatalities in Hackney over a ten year period from 2004-2014. I have gone back to the raw data and have extracted all collisions within the borough involving someone cycling and a bus that caused an injury and have plotted them all onto a  map:

click here to view the map

I've included the age and sex of the person injured or killed, along with the severity of their injuries and a brief description of the collision itself (these descriptions are lifted directly off the police report and not my own words). Here is a breakdown of the statistics:

There were a total of 81 collisions within that ten year period involving bikes and buses in Hackney that resulted in an injury to the person cycling. 11 of these were serious injuries and 70 resulted in slight injuries to the cyclist. There was one fatality which was Dan Harris, who was killed by a Stagecoach bus ferrying journalists from the Olympic Park during the Olympic games in 2012. This highlights that not all of these collisions will involve TFL buses running scheduled route services but as in this case may be the same contractors running other services, such as rail replacement buses.

Over 80% of the collisions occurred on A roads, which is not surprising as that is where the majority of buses run. As for the roads these collisions took place on 27 of them, exactly a third, occurred on the A10. I have previously already reported that the A10 is the most dangerous road for cycling in the borough with 28% of ALL cycling collisions resulting in serous or fatal injuries to the person cycling occurring on this road.

A woman cycles with her child on the pavement along the A10 in Hackney. Would you cycle with your children in that wide bus lane on a road with such horrific casualty statistics?
The A10 in Haggerston, a narrow pavement alongside five wide lanes for motor traffic. If you want to encourage families to cycle then don't design roads where cycling on the pavement is the most attractive option 
The A10 in Dalston Kingsland, described as "an ideal road layout" by a former co-ordinator of the Hackney cycling campaign
The A107 was the next road with the worst bus/bike casualty record with 15 collisions; 6 on Mare Street, 6 on Lower Clapton Road and 3 on Upper Clapton Road. As for the 11 collisions which resulted in serious injuries, 5 of these occurred on the A10. 

Statistics on the age and sex of all those involved in the collisions is similar to the breakdown of all cycle collisions and is dominated by young men, with two thirds of the casualties male. Nearly half were aged in their twenties with nearly 80% aged between 20 and 39. Five were children; two sixteen year olds, a twelve year old, a ten year old and an eight year old. 

As for the 11 who suffered serious injuries 9 were male and two female. Five were in their twenties, four in their thirties and two aged above 40.

Following a long campaign by Tom Kearney Transport for London have been publishing details of bus collisions online since 2014. Whilst these reports do not give the exact location of the collision we can extract data that shows where someone cycling has been injured by a bus in Hackney. Three more people were injured after the data above in the second half of 2014, four in 2015, six in 2016 and three in 2017, up to the end of September as Q4 data has still not been published.

Another issue with cycling in bus lanes is that buses generally travel faster than people cycling but stop often, and so buses and cyclists often leapfrog each other, with people cycling often having to pull out of the bus lanes to overtake them at bus stops. 

There were numerous collisions reported where this happened, which obviously would not have been the case if there were protected cycle lanes available to use, inside of the bus lanes. 

"Serious injury - lorry tried overtaking cycle who was overtaking a bus causing a collision. Old Street / Hoxton Street"
"Slight injury - cyclist overtaking stationary bus is hit from behind by a car which stops but fails to give details. A10 / Arcola Street"
"Slight injury - car overtaking stationary bus when cyclist also attempts to overtake bus causing a collision. Hackney Road / Cremer Street"

Collisions also occur due to having to share the bus lanes with taxis and motorbikes

"Slight injury - cyclist in bus lane overtaken and clipped by motorcycle. Seven Sisters Road / Blackstock Road"
"Slight injury - taxi pulled into bus lane and failed to observe cyclist. Seven Sisters Road / Amhurst Park"

Clearly with this level of casualties involving bikes and buses, just in Hackney alone, we should not treat bus lanes as adequate cycling infrastructure and should try to separate the two modes wherever possible. This is especially important if the council is committed to their 2014-2024 cycling plan, with the ultimate aim to "make cycling a normal, safe and attractive choice for travel and recreation for our residents and addressing barriers that prevent other residents from taking up cycling" and to "make Hackney's roads the most attractive and safest in the UK where it is second nature for everyone, no matter what their age, to cycle"

Schoolchildren and buses safely separated in Utrecht, the Netherlands
If Hackney is serious about having 9% of all school children aged 5-15 cycling to school within little over a decade then clearly protected cycle tracks must be built on busy bus corridors, unless they want to hugely increase the level of illegal pavement cycling

Even if Hackney did manage to hit the levels of cycling they are aiming for, with 20% of all journeys and 30% of all journeys to work made by bike, then that would severely slow down the bus network as bus lanes would be swamped with people cycling

Separating people cycling and buses leads to safer cycling conditions and speeds up bus journeys. I also uses buses often in Hackney and want a more efficient bus service as the current average speed of most bus routes in Hackney is around 6 or 7mph
The council rightly puts the safety of people walking and cycling above the speed of buses in their road user hierarchy

But this does not necessarily mean slowing down buses. There are clearly many main roads in the borough that are wide enough for cycle tracks to be accommodated alongside bus lanes

Mare Street
Other measures could also be taken and recently Hackney Council announced that they wanted to install a bus gate on Amhurst Road, along with protected cycle tracks on Mare Street. Making Amhurst Road a through route for buses and cycling only, with access maintained for residents and business deliveries, would mean no need for the westbound bus lane freeing up space for protected cycle tracks

Amhurst Road
Kinkerstraat in Amsterdam. When I visited this street in 2016 it was just a normal road with no cycling infrastructure. When I returned a year later cycle lanes had been added with the road only open in one direction to buses and trams
Installing cycle tracks can also be an opportunity to upgrade the entire street and improve the environment for pedestrians as well 

Continuous footway and cycle track past a side road in Amsterdam. This design gives pedestrians and cyclists priority over motor vehicles and slows down motor traffic as it turns into and out of the side road. This type of infrastructure improves safety for all road users
The Living in Hackney Scrutiny Commission will meet on Monday to discuss protected cycle tracks in the borough, chaired by labour councillor Sharon Patrick, who recently expressed concerns about floating bus stops
She is right to be concerned about the Wick Road plans where the cycle tracks disappear behind almost all of the bus stops to become a shared space area. It is perfectly possible to create a floating bus stop which does not cause conflict with pedestrians getting on or off buses. 

"In order to increase the borough's cycling levels the borough will need to target currently non-cycling residents that view cycling to be less appealing than other modes of transport." The Hackney Council cycling plan
Floating bus stops are an essential requirement to keep cyclists safe, rather than expecting them to overtake buses within streams of traffic 

A father cycling with his son on CS2 near Whitechapel approaching a floating bus stop. Were it not there he would have to overtake that bus, in front of the lorry
Whilst it is perfectly reasonable for the chair of the Living in Hackney Scrutiny Commission to be concerned with pedestrian safety at floating bus stops (and there are plenty of examples available to ease those concerns) I hope she is equally concerned with cycling casualties. 15 cyclists have been killed in Hackney since 2005, with hundreds seriously injured and nearly a hundred injured by bus collisions. I hope all seven Hackney labour councillors on the committee are also concerned by these figures and support protected cycle tracks on the main roads in the borough to help reduce casualties and enable cycling in Hackney to be possible for the many and not the few

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