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London cycle network faces safety review

Transport for London (TfL) said last week it would reexamine the safety of London’s Cycle Superhighways network and will upgrade and physically segregate cycle routes where necessary.

It was responding to calls for action following a series of deaths and serious injuries on the network.

London mayor Boris Johnson made the announcement last week as he opened a new, mostly segregated, section of Cycle Superhighway 2 (CS2) between Bow and Stratford a day after a tipper truck killed a 62 year old man who was cycling along an older section of the route on Mile End Road.

This latest fatality took the number of cyclists killed on London’s roads this year to nine.

CS2 and other parts of the superhighway network have been heavily criticised by cyclists’ groups for their poor safety at junctions and for a lack of physical segregation allowing motorists to stray into the blue painted cycleway.

Mace employee Brian Dorling was killed while cycling at Bow roundabout on CS2 in October 2011. And French student Philippine de Gerin-Ricard died in July this year after being struck by a lorry as she  cycled on the Whitechapel Road section of CS2 outside Aldgate East Tube station. These two deaths were subjected to a special inquest.

Johnson announced that the inner London section of CS2 between Aldgate and Bow will be the first to be upgraded.

TfL said work to design the upgrade has been underway since the publication of Johnson’s Vision for Cycling document in March this year.

Full segregation and cycle-separated junctions will be built along Whitechapel Road where Gerin-Ricard was killed, and full or semi-segregation will be installed on the rest of the route, subject to further investigation by TfL.

City of London Corporation is drawing up revised plans with more segregated provision for cyclists after cycling groups criticised the proposals for their lack of cycling infrastructure.

Cycling groups welcomed Johnson’s segregation plan, and that of City of London to amend the remodelling of the Aldgate gyratory, a large multi lane roundabout at the western end of CS2.

“We very much welcome and support both the Mayor’s initiative and the City of London’s revisiting of provision for cycling at Aldgate,” said a London Cycling Campaign spokesman.

“We have a commitment from Boris [Johnson] that he and TfL will radically improve the CS network which we think is very far below standard,” he said. “If we are going to put a lot of cyclists on busy roads then we have to provide safe, segregated space.”

But engineers questioned the segregation plan.

Sustainable transport consultant Ali Ataie is a member of the ICE’s cycling working group, and as a divisional director for Jacobs had oversight of design of five of the CS routes.

He warned against a blanket move to full segregation of cyclists from traffic and pedestrians.

“We have seen a huge amount of growth in cycling in London and the superhighways have had a significant effect for wayfinding and helping to encourage more cyclists, despite the concerns about it being just blue paint,” said Ataie.

“But I am not an advocate of segregating them all. We have seen how guard-railing and other safety measures create adverse effects. As an engineer I don’t want to create a false sense of security that comes from full segregation and the notion that ‘this is my space’. Every area should be looked at individually and segregation considered in context of risk,” he said.

But Ataie was keen for more space to be allocated to cyclists and said that there was a growing recognition that this is possible.

“There has been tremendous pressure to get more cycle infrastructure built but without impacting on other modes. Design standards considered cycleways as ‘virtual’ lanes,” he said.

“But with traffic management experience gained from the Olympics TfL realises more can be done. Greater capacity can be given to cyclists.”

The new CS2 extension was redesigned to this new line of thinking, Ataie said.

TfL is understood to be readying a revision to its eight year old London Cycling Design Standards (LCDS)  for consultation later this year.

LCDS2 will provide for more cycle segregation. “Primarily this will learn from all the things that have worked and those that have not,” a TfL senior cycling project officer told NCE this week.

“The new standard will be published with a Level of Service design tool for scoring cycle facilities against international benchmarks. This will be a very useful tool and one that is aspirational, as it’s generally known that not much of London’s cycling infrastructure would score highly to international standards at the moment.”

TfL has so far built four of its initially planned network of 12 cycle superhighways. CS3 which follows the A13 corridor east from Tower Gateway and CS7 from the City south to Clapham and Merton, were built as trial routes, followed by CS2 to Bow and now Stratford and CS8 from Westminster to Wandsworth.

Further routes are being designed including CS5 from Victoria to New Cross Gate, which was due to be opened this year. NCE understands the safety of CS5 and all of the superhighways under development will be subject to review.

TfL says that not all existing superhighways can be fully segregated, but all will be improved using a combination of better junctions, semi-segregation and other means to reduce exposure to traffic. Some sections will be moved to roads where it is easier to provide such measures.

Johnson said a further superhighway is planned for central London running north-south and adding to the east-west “Crossrail for bikes” plan announced in his Vision for Cycling document.

Deaths of cyclists lead to calls for more action on safety

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