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

Monday, 12 February 2018

Going one way in Hackney

Last year I wrote about the most dangerous junction for cycling in Hackney, locally named as Britannia junction it is located where Pitfield Street, Hyde Road, Whitmore Road and Hoxton Street meet, or if you prefer, where cycle superhighway 1 and the Central London Cycle grid quietway 16 meet. It was converted from a roundabout into a crossroads in 2011 and despite the space available no dedicated cycle provision was provided with people cycling expected to "take the lane" on a narrow carriageway, alongside gigantic pavements. Following its conversion in the three year period to the end of 2014 there were 14 casualties for cyclists at this junction, more than double the amount of cycling casualties than any other junction in Hackney. The times also reported that this was the 7th most dangerous junction for cycling in the entire UK.

Although I don't have collision statistics available I'm convinced that for the past year this junction has been much safer than it previously was. The reason for this is due to the Colville Estate regeneration, where Penn Street has been made one way for motor traffic but has been kept open in both directions for bicycles just west of Britannia junction

Whilst motor traffic continues to cross CS1 westbound, travelling from Whiston Road and the A10 to New North road, the only motor traffic going eastbound across this junction are from residents living along Penn Street and Hyde Road or those driving back from the Britannia Leisure Centre. The junction is still far from perfect and I've had a few near misses this year where drivers have failed to give way as they cross it but at least the majority of the time you now only have to beware of this happening in one direction, instead of two.

Once the regeneration of the Colville Estate has been completed it would be a real shame if the road was reopened in both directions and I would hope this long, enforced experiment would be enough to convince Hackney Council that keeping the road one way for motor traffic and two way for people cycling makes for a safer junction. 

A one way road for motor vehicles in Utrecht provides safe space for people of all ages to cycle. Imagine how worse it would be if driving were allowed in both directions and the cycle lanes were removed

Before and after in Rotterdam. An example of how to create space for cycling, along with new street furniture and trees, on a narrow urban street by converting the road from two way to one direction for motor traffic
Hyde Road, just west of Britannia junction, alongside the Britannia Leisure Centre car park. Not too narrow here as it has two lanes for motor traffic and two lanes for car parking 
This cycle track in Eindhoven links the university with the centre of the city, via the John Cleese "silly walks" Tunnel under the railway lines. It is one way for motor traffic and provides a direct, quick route through the centre of the city. 

Breaks in car parking provide space for trees, flowers and crossing points for pedestrians
The "still in experimental phase" redevelopment of  Tavistock Place in Central London, a lane of traffic has been removed to allow for cycle tracks on both sides of the road, rather than the narrow bidirectional cycle track which existed here previously
One of the great elements of this scheme is that the one-way arrangement is being used to reduce motor traffic levels by having opposing directions of traffic, meaning motor traffic cannot use this route as a through route from Tottenham Court Road to Clerkenwell, or vice-versa

Unfortunately the position of Hackney Council has traditionally been to oppose one way streets and convert them back to two way
This occurred on Pitfield Street as part of Cycle Superhighway 1, where people cycling previously had a protected lane to head south (albeit a narrow one with high kerbs), this was removed to allow motor vehicles to use this route southbound too

I find this particularly bad in the morning peak, where vans and taxis especially use it to cut down Haberdasher Street and onto Old Street via Coronet Street, something that was impossible to do before CS1. This scheme has created new routes for drivers and encourages rat running. Whilst the removal of large one way gyratory systems designed to enable more motor traffic capacity is welcome (ideally with protected cycle tracks, as is happening in Stratford), turning roads one way can be an effective way to reduce levels of motor traffic whilst providing a better environment for people walking and cycling.

Hackney Council have pledged to improve both Pitfield Street and Britannia junction and I hope making some or all of it one way for motor traffic will be considered. Certainly reopening Penn Street to motor traffic in both directions once the regeneration is complete and reintroducing the East to West 'quietway' motoring rat run through the most dangerous junction for cycling would be a huge step backwards.

UPDATE: October 2018 - Unfortunately after nearly two years of Penn Street being a cycle only street eastbound Hackney Council have reopened it to motor traffic in both directions, renewing quietway 16 as a rat run for motor traffic and ensuring less safe conditions for cycling at the most dangerous junction for cycling in Hackney; Britannia Junction on Cycle superhighway 1

What could have been a golden opportunity to create genuine world class cycle facilities for the families due to move into the Colville Estate has been squandered. Even on dedicated cycle quietways the motor car remains at the top of the hierarchy in Hackney. 

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.