Monday, 26 November 2018

The removal of the Stoke Newington Gyratory

Transport for London are currently consulting on the removal of the Stoke Newington Gyratory, having worked with Hackney Council on the plans for over a decade. They state that the main aims of this scheme are to remove a barrier to cycling, create new traffic-free public spaces and creating a more attractive and less traffic-dominated environment for people.

The proposal is to create a shared bus and cycle lane southbound on Stoke Newington High Street, which is currently one way (northbound) for all vehicles and also to create a cycle track northbound. The cycle track is needed as most people would be unwilling to cycle on this road if it were open to all motor traffic; any children currently cycling here usually do so on the pavement, rather than mixing it up with buses and lorries on the main road

However no cycle track is proposed on the southbound carriageway, with a "bus and cycle lane" planned, even though it appears there is plenty of space along the southern half of this road to accommodate cycle tracks along both sides of the road

It seems that there is ample space to provide two lanes for motor traffic, including space for loading, whilst maintaining two cycle tracks and wide pavements, which already exists

Creating this bus and cycle lane will ensure a more direct and shorter journey for those who already travel south on the A10 by bike, as well as giving direct access to the shops on the high street for those coming from the north to visit Stoke Newington via bike. However expecting the majority of people to cycle with buses in a bus lane is a misconception and will do little to encourage more people to shift to cycling, especially children, families cycling together, or the elderly. Cycling with buses in a narrow bus lane would be uncomfortable and more dangerous than having a separate cycle track, as well as less convenient for bus passengers, who would surely be delayed by cyclists in the bus lane, especially at peak times.

The Northbound cycle track does appear to be adequate and it is good to see a floating bus stop, although is inconsistent with regards to its treatment to loading bays, being routed behind one and in front of the other, with vehicles crossing the cycle track to get to the loading bay. I see no reason as to why the cycle track cannot go behind both loading bays.

Whilst buses currently have their own bus lane northbound with two lanes for general motor traffic all of this will be reduced into a single lane, which will surely increase delay to buses. Instead it would surely be more beneficial for both bus passengers and pedestrians in the area if private motor traffic were excluded from this stretch of road and sent onto Rectory Road (the current southbound route for all traffic) instead, with some exceptions for some vehicles, or at certain times

Why should all this private motor traffic continue to be allowed to use this stretch of road north but not south? The most recent DfT traffic counts show that nearly 75% of all vehicles traveling along this road were cars  
Batley, Hollar and Tysen Roads are also planned to be closed at the A10 and whilst calling them "pocket parks" may be a slight over exaggeration it will create better conditions for pedestrians as well as some space for seating, trees and cycle parking.

The cycle track briefly pauses at Brooke Road and I'm unsure why, as it seems there is space for it to be continuous without hindering buses turning onto the road

The space available then narrows from here to Stoke Newington Church Street, approximately 140m away. The space is currently used for three lanes of motor traffic (some of which contain loading bays) and narrow footways

A northbound cycle track is planned here, roughly where the people are cycling in the picture below, with one lane northbound for motor traffic and a bus & cycle lane southbound  

However the loading bay is to remain here, located on the cycle track, with loading only allowed to take place from 7-10am. Whilst the logic behind this can be appreciated (as most people currently cycling here in the morning peak will be travelling south, towards Central London) this excludes many of the kind of people TfL are hoping to switch to cycling from other modes. In particular children cycling to school, instead of being driven there. I also remember being informed that the planned protected cycle track on Cycle Superhighway 2 alongside Whitechapel Market would not be going ahead but loading for the market would be restricted to 20 minutes at a time. Well everyday I cycle past Whitechapel Market (the worst stretch of CS2 by far) and the same vans are parked in the same places, hour after hour, day after day. I suspect enforcement of this cycle track would be similar with vehicles parked in it at all hours of the day.

I appreciate the difficulty TfL and Hackney council have encountered here but I do think there could be space for stepped cycle tracks and bus only lanes along here, with loading moved further south or north where the carriageway is wider. A similar example can be found on Nobelstraat in Utrecht

Nobelstraat in Utrecht
Stoke Newington High Street in Hackney 
 This street isn't ideal, both for people on foot or cycling, but it does provide safe conditions to cycle into the centre of Utrecht for people of all ages

This is also a busy bus route and it would be unthinkable for the many young children who use this road on a bike everyday to cycle in the same lanes as buses.

The road is also restricted to buses only in one direction and as an exit from the City Centre from certain routes to other motor traffic, reducing any delays to buses who almost always have a clear, empty road to drive down. Interestingly Nobelstraat also used to be one way for motor traffic as part of a gyratory system, which you can read more about here by Mark Wagenbuur.

The added advantage of a tight bus road also means buses would proceed at a slower speed at this particular section, increasing safety for all. The footways along this stretch are already very narrow so perhaps having the street lamps strung between buildings, as is the case on Nobletstraat, would free up footway space.

There still might not be the space for stepped tracks and a bus only road of course and The Ranty Highwayman has suggested in his blog that buses could pass each other via a single track road. It certainly sounds like a radical proposal but would actually return the road to how it was a century ago, when trams did exactly that for a short distance on this narrow street

A similar layout can be found today on Leidsestraat in Amsterdam, although the Dutch have since removed the private motor traffic from this street! 
Once past Stoke Newington Church Street (which would see a drastic reduction in motor traffic if Stoke Newington High Street were to be turned into a through route for buses only) the cycle track disappears, with bicycles expected to go around a loading bay and a bus stop, rather than inside them

Clearly a floating bus stop would be possible if the bus stop were located in the carriageway, which would provide continuous cycle tracks the full length of Stoke Newington High Street and be in keeping with Hackney's road user hierarchy

Meanwhile on the eastern side of the gyratory, currently southbound for all traffic, Northwold Road is to be closed to traffic westbound and replaced by a bidirectional cycle track, at least for part of the way before cycles and pedestrians are expected to share a gigantic footway, or "public realm improvements" as the consultation calls it

I really don't understand why, with all the complaints of pavement cycling that exist, that the cycle track does not simply continue all the way to the toucan crossing, providing clear separate space for people on foot and on two wheels, reducing the chance of conflict

There is an awful lot of space to play with here, as was evident when the carriageway and footways were hidden under water during the burst water main flooding almost exactly two years ago
And finally the plans for Rectory Road are two way single lane carriageway with median strip, designed so people cycling do so in primary position, in the middle of the carriageway. The most recent DfT traffic counts showed that nearly 17,000 motor vehicles used this road per day southbound with less than 700 of those buses. Clearly cycling along here with this design would be horrific and if the central median is to stay then perhaps a bidirectional cycle track could be constructed alongside the road

This consultation has been a long time coming but unfortunately looks unlikely to achieve the Mayor of London's  Vision Zero target or his promise to make London a byword for cycling. It does not put people walking or cycling at the top of the transport Hierarchy and provides far too much space for the private car to enable healthy streets or a less traffic-dominated environment for people.

The consultation closes this Friday 30th November. You can respond here.

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