Thursday, 8 February 2018

The Improved Central London cycle grid in Hoxton

In late 2016 Hackney Council consulted on improving a section of the Central London cycle grid in Hoxton, and I wrote about it here whilst the consultation was still open. This section of road was historically known as LCN+ route 16 but is now referred to as the Central London Grid, which forms part of the 'wider quietway route'.

The Central London Grid is a matrix of safe, connected quietway routes and is aimed at new cyclists and people who like to cycle away from heavily trafficked roads. The CLG network will provide continuous and connected routes for cyclists linking key destinations. The intention of the CLG quietway routes is that they will follow direct back-street routes, through parks, along waterways or tree-lined streets. The routes will overcome barriers to cycling, targeting less confident cyclists who want to use low-traffic routes, while also providing for existing cyclists who want to travel at a gentler pace.

These cycling improvements were fully funded by TFL, at a cost of £640,000, as part of the Mayor of London's vision for cycling in London programme but were designed and implemented by Hackney Council.


The main change on the quietway itself was the redevelopment of the crossroads where the quietway crosses New North Road. Previously you had to try and cross the main road with no assistance, although there was a pedestrian crossing around 30 metres south of this junction which did assist a little. The original consultation proposed to close both Poole Street and Eagle Wharf Road to motor traffic and then to install four pedestrian crossings at the crossroads, removing the one further south.



Whilst this proposal was a definite improvement it was clear on the plans that there was to be no physical closures of these roads, just "no entry" and "cycles only" signs. I suggested in this blog, and in my consultation response, that a physical closure of the carriageway should be implemented with entry maintained for cyclists, similar to this:



Which would allow a tiger crossing to be constructed instead


The Hackney cycling campaign also suggested physical closures of the two quietway roads at this junction. The response from Hackney Council to this suggestion was that

"The use of physical barriers to stop motorised traffic gaining access onto Poole Street and Eagle Wharf Road is not desirable as it can cause delays for emergency services in the event of an emergency"

However also part of these plans was to close Sturt Street to motor traffic, just around the corner. The London Fire Brigade responded to the consultation with concerns the barrier at Sturt Street would be an impediment for emergency services and the response from the council was that

"The road closure at Sturt Street will be implemented using fixed and lockable barriers that allow access for emergency vehicles and cyclists when required" 

Which is what has occurred, so I'm unsure why this was viable to do here but not at the New North Road junction. 


the newly filtered Sturt Street
However the proposed closure of these roads did not happen, as the council explain

"The London borough of Islington was consulted before the consultation document was distributed. After the consultation period the Lead Member for the London Borough of Islington submitted a formal objection to the proposals with concerns on the impact of rerouting traffic from Poole Street to Baring Street. A solution that does not negatively the London Borough of Islington road network was reached. A 'right turn' ban will be introduced at Eagle Wharf Road to allow left turning to gain access onto New North Road while left and right turning vehicular traffic will be able to come out of but not into Poole Street"

So, the layout remains almost exactly the same as it was and, crucially, the plans to close these two roads to vehicular traffic have been dropped. This means that motor traffic can, and will, continue to use Shepherdess Walk and Eagle Wharf Road as a shortcut from City Road and to the east of this junction car drivers can use the "quietway" as a route all the way from Hackney Road through to New North Road via the terrible lorry rat run Whiston Road quietway, which I have also written about previously here

It was pleasant to use this route whilst the works were taking place as the road was closed



The kerb has now been removed and replaced with a painted cycle lane, as can be seen in these 'before and after' pictures:




Additional car parking has been created and cars will have to drive over the cycle lane to get to it. The pavement has also been reduced in size to accommodate the additional car parking, paid for from the vision for cycling budget



But Eagle Wharf Road remains open for lorries to use as a shortcut from City Road


so, unsurprisingly, children prefer to use the pavement rather than mix with lorries


On the opposite side of New North Road the cycle contraflow has been removed on Poole Street to allow the road to become two way for motor vehicles


I'm not quite sure why this has been done. Under the original plans this was needed so motor vehicles could exit the parking and loading bays but under the revised plans motor traffic can still exit Poole Street onto New North Road. Surely the best intervention would have been to keep the road one way for motor traffic and then move the loading and parking bays further out to create a cycle lane behind the parking; there was certainly enough room to do this


and people wouldn't have to cycle between lorries 


A major flaw with the new design is that every time I have been here all traffic on Poole Street is turning right to travel north on New North Road, because if you wanted to travel south you would likely do so further back by driving south on the busy Pitfield "cycle superhighway" Street. However as traffic on Eagle Wharf Road is banned from making a right turn all traffic on Poole Street has to wait to give way to traffic coming out of Eagle Wharf Road. This can often be around a dozen vehicles which means motorists have to wait the entire cycle of the green light to turn right, quite often eventually doing so on a red signal. As I was stood here recently the black van pictured below took exception to having to wait for his third cycle of green light and instead overtook several cars to drive through the red light, nearly causing a collision


I've also noticed that nearly every time I have cycled this way I cannot use the ASL as there is a motor vehicle sat in it. I think that this isn't cars driving into the ASL on a red but rather that they are stationary there as the lights switch back to red


These traffic lights would work fine if the junction was cycles only but under these revised plans this is a serious design issue.

On New North Road itself I was surprised that on this very wide three lane road, used by over 20,000 motor vehicles per day, the plan in the original consultation was to simply paint a wide central hatching to replace the central lane when there was clearly the space to provide cycle lanes


However this did not occur in the final plans and instead the road is left with two very wide lanes, leading to high speed of motor traffic on this 20mph road


If you're cycling south on New North Road and want to turn right onto the cycle grid to cycle into Central London, as many people here do, then the original plan for the cycle waiting area in the middle of the road has also been dropped. This means you now wait in the middle of a very wide road with cars driving directly towards you, as they prepare to get into the right filter lane directly after this junction to turn into Baring Street. It is a really dangerous layout and best described in this forum post.

I'm afraid Phillip Glanville, the Mayor of Hackney, is wrong when he says these designs are "a far better more liveable set of crossings, junctions and filtering". The signals do make it safer to cross New North Road at this junction but the situation on both Poole Street and New North Road is worse with the protected cycle infrastructure removed and cycling on New North Road is now far worse than it was. A real missed opportunity to create safer cycling conditions, suitable for all.

4 comments:

departmentfortransport said...

What's happened to New North Road is ridiculous! Clearly space for proper cycleways along there.

AndyO said...

I had entertained hopes that Hackney was going to improve markedly over the last couple of years with regard to its cycling philosophy, but it's quite clear with this and the Whiston Road 'Quietway' that the cycling budget is still being misappropriated to further their 'public realm' projects, resulting in nested parking spaces, buildouts and resurfaced roads. This development does nothing for cycling and, arguably, makes things worse. Very disappointing.

truth said...

There needs to be a national cycling czar who has to sign off projects and has the authority to fine councils who disregard or fail to implement approved plans so as to avoid such travesties of mid-directed funds

Matthew Phillips said...

Has anyone considered making a formal corporate complaint against Hackney Council and/or TfL? There is surely clear misuse of funds intended to improve cycling conditions.