Wednesday, 30 January 2019

An upgrade to Quietway 2 on Queensbridge Road

Quietway 2 runs between De Beauvoir Town and London Fields via Middleton Road. One of the obstacles of this long popular cycling route has always been crossing the busy Queensbridge Road, which usually involved a wait for a gap in traffic to cross, and often a risky manoeuvre between two streams of moving traffic. There was a pedestrian crossing just south of the junction and so this did help, providing a pedestrian pressed the button, although I've also witnessed people cycling down to the pedestrian crossing via the footway on occasions, to cross there instead.

Middleton Road (quietway 2) running East / West across Queensbridge Road

A year ago Hackney Council ran a consultation on installing traffic lights at these crossroads, following eleven recorded collisions over the previous five year, four of them involving cyclists. The consultation also included some changes to Queensbridge Road just south of the junction, with all of these changes carried out in 2018.

Hackney Council have been looking at installing protected cycle tracks on Queensbridge Road for some time now. It's an obvious road to choose as it is very wide road

Queensbridge Road in 1983, via Alan Denney on flickr 
The same location on Queensbridge Road today, with the Holly Lane Estate demolished and a wide road remaining. The houses on the left and Queensbridge Primary school in the distance, remain

Queensbridge Road remains wide all the way down to Hackney Road (with the exception of where it crosses the Regents canal) and so suffers from motor traffic (including lorries) travelling at high speed and making it an unpleasant road to cycle on

Queensbridge Road further south from the Middleton Road junction 

Therefore Queensbridge Road is an easy target for Hackney Council to upgrade as creating the space for cycle tracks could be achieved with no reduction in motor traffic capacity, as well as maintaining car parking, trees and street furniture. Another advantage is dealing with cycle tracks at the bus stops, as it carries just one bus route, the lightly used 236 to Hackney Wick, along the northern section of the road, with no buses at all using the southern end of the road.

In the consultation last year Hackney Council correctly described Queensbridge Road as a "busy distributor road" with "above average wide lanes, high traffic speeds and volumes for a 20mph road" and took the opportunity to create changes to a small section of it at the same time as upgrading the Quietway 2 crossing. This involved extending the pavements outside Queensbridge Road Primary School to "create a quiet space"

Before and after the changes on Queensbridge Road
I'm not sure how extended the footway slightly helps to create a quiet space, as the road remains just as busy as it was before. Very little extra space has been added for pedestrians as most of the space taken from the roadway has been reallocated to "greenery"

Which makes Queensbridge Road much worse if you're on a bike, as you now have to negotiate pinch points as you approach the school and are pushed closer towards lorries on the road 

It wasn't so long ago that there were four lanes of traffic outside this school so it seems a real wasted opportunity that this space was not instead used for protected cycle tracks to allow children, and their parents, to cycle safely to school here. A wide road still remains and children and most parents instead cycle on the pavement, rather than alongside lorries

Before and after: a child cycles on the pavement on one side of the road and visible in the distance is a parent cycling on the pavement  on the other side of the road, with a child on the back of their bike. I don't blame them. 
Even with the extended pavements the road does still remain wide, showing how there was ample space to create protected cycle tracks here 

In the delegated powers decision documents Hackney Council claimed that:

"narrowing the road will help change the nature of the road from a busy distributor road to a calmer road with reduced speeds but this might not be the ideal situation for cyclists"

Narrowing the road could have been achieved by creating protected cycle tracks of course, which actually could have resulted in an even narrower road here as the proposals:

 "were designed with minimum lane widths of 4.0 metres and meet the minimum requirements of the London cycling design standards. These were changed to 4.2 metres at the detailed design stage"

The consultation also states that the road was 11.8m wide before the narrowing, so instead of designing an 8.4m wide carriageway to accommodate cyclists on the road the vehicle lanes could have been 3m wide in order to create a 6m wide carriageway (the same width as Old Shoreham Road in Brighton). This would have left nearly 6m to create cycle tracks on both sides of the road, with a buffer or even some added greenery between the cycle tracks and the roadway

Hackney Council also claim that:

"an overall cycling level of service for Queensbridge Road would achieve a high level of service of 70+ if the proposed Central London Cycle Grid scheme is implemented"

Which is a different scheme entirely, for a much larger area, and hasn't been consulted on yet. The kerb build out was raised as an issue by members of the public in the consultation who were concerned about the future implementation of segregated cycle lanes here, and the council responded that

"this section will be traffic calmed and this rules out future segregated cycle lanes"

Which I'm pleased to hear the Mayor of Hackney disagrees with, but it does seem an odd decision to implement a narrower carriageway with these kerb build outs if they are only going to be demolished at a later stage to build protected cycle tracks. Surely the sensible option would be to build the cycle tracks here and then extend them the entire length of Queensbridge Road at a later date?

In their 2014-2024 ten year cycling plan Hackney Council stated that they want it to be second nature for anyone to cycle, no matter what their age, with a target of 5% of all school children cycling to school by 2024. We're now halfway through that plan and I don't see how Hackney will get anywhere close to that target with terrible schemes like this, directly outside a school, or how this fits in with creating "clear safe space for cyclists"

On Queensbridge Road Hackney Council have deliberately created poor road design in an attempt to force people cycling into a position very few people want to cycle in (also known as "primary position"). Children will not and should not be expected to cycle on narrow roads with thousands of drivers per day

As for the Quietway 2 crossing, it is now much safer and more comfortable to have a dedicated crossing over Queensbridge Road. However it was fantastic for several weeks last year, when these changes were being put in place, as Middleton Road was closed both sides of Queensbridge Road, resulting in a very quiet quietway

Since Middleton Road has reopened and the traffic lights have become operational I've been a regular user of this route and the main downside is just how busy Middleton Road is. Usually several motor vehicles will overtake you, only for you to overtake them at the Queensbridge Road traffic lights to get to the ASL (which are heavily favoured towards the busier Queensbridge Road meaning if you're on a bike you almost always seem to get a red light). Only for the same pattern to repeat itself over the second half of Middleton Road until you then have to overtake all the same vehicles again once you get to the lights at Kingsland Road. In an ideal world Middleton Road would have remained closed to motor traffic to allow a tiger crossing to be built over Queensbridge Road, giving cyclists priority

A cycle route I used in Zoetermeer, the Netherlands, which has priority over the main road, with a cycle track on the main road as well. 
On the whole though, this is a much improved crossing on Quietway 2 and probably the best that could have been achieved at this location at the present time. It's encouraging to see Hackney Council continue to make improvements to Quietway 2 and they should be applauded for this. However the changes on Queensbridge Road are baffling and a real step backwards if you use this road on a bike

This was an opportunity to enable more children in Hackney to be able to safely cycle to school and improve a small section of Queensbridge Road. I look forward to future proposals to create this along the rest of the road but this is an opportunity missed to create safe space for cyclists.

No comments:

Post a Comment