Blue paint is not magic

This video is Transport for London’s idea of “safer, faster and more direct journeys into the city [which] could be your best and quickest way to get to work.”

I sent this video to a few friends.

“It’ll be better when they put the superhighway in,won’t it?”

“That is the cycle superhighway.”

“Don’t ever cycle on that, you’ll die.”

If you were told “we’re putting in a new cycle route which will be safer, faster and more direct, … [which] could be your best and quickest way to get to work,” and it’s going in along the Mile End Road, a street which has two lanes of traffic in either direction and pavements so wide that ten people can walk abreast, what would you think?

I confess that I thought “brilliant! They’ll run it down the middle of the pavement,with strategic give-way points so that people can access the bus stops along the road. It’ll be segregated from the motorised traffic so we won’t have to battle with cars and vans and the lorries delivering to Tesco, and the Olympics construction traffic, and it might give a safe passage around Bow Flyover and Algate Gyratory.”

I’m a wide-eyed, trusting soul, sometimes.

Instead, as you can see, it occupies half of one of the car lanes. It doesn’t even have advisory broken white lines along its side, never mind solid “do not cross” white lines. This means that cars, vans, lorries and buses can and do drive in it with impunity, because what else can they do? They’ve sort of lost one of the lanes of traffic but not really because it’s not properly segregated off.

When it comes to a bus stop it abruptly disappears and is replaced with a couple of blue boxes in the middle of the carriageway, so it’s right signal, fling yourself out into the traffic, and hope like hell the bus driver uses his mirrors before signalling and pulling out from the stop.

The paint surface itself is an interesting choice of two different materials, one quite decent textured, rubberised paint which provides a fair amount of grip in poor weather, and one frankly awful slick gloss paint which, in the rain, is like cycling on a greasy skating rink.

There are two decent sections of segregated path, one just after Bow Flyover and one just after the church, both heading west into London. Every time I go on them I sigh and think “oh, it could have all been like this.”

The rest of it is the biggest waste of blue paint since the last time something big was painted blue to no purpose.

Because Newham Council refused planning permission for the route to be installed in the borough until after the Olympics, the route starts halfway round the Bow Flyover junction, a hideous roundabout on steroids with sixteen lanes of traffic and no pedestrian crossings because they would slow down the traffic too much. It heads west along Mile End Road in half a car lane, giving way to bus stops and car parking.

I kid you not, the route has to accommodate car parking.

Let me remind you that this is supposed to be a “safer, faster and more direct journeys into the city [which] could be your best and quickest way to get to work.”

And yet the route breaks to accommodate on-road parking, forcing cyclists to merge right into the traffic, hoping the driver behind has seen you and is prepared to give way. Eastbound, the route actually has parking spaces painted into it, and cyclists are travelling in the door zone.

At the western end, it abandons you just before Aldgate Gyratory, a hideous one-way system where if you want to turn right to head into the City along Bevis Marks you have to hurl yourself across four lanes of traffic going at thirty miles an hour.

It is lethal. It has already killed one person. I should not be arriving at my destination mentally saying “hurrah! I’m not dead!” And the worst bit of it is not that’s it’s dangerous, but, as someone said on Twitter last night, “it’s dangerous and it pretends not to be.”

Blue paint is not magic. It does not have miraculous tipper-truck-repelling powers. It will not save me from an idiot who opens their car door without looking. This is not safe cycle provision. This is a mess.

If I were either the Mayor of London or Barclays, I would be absolutely furious, utterly livid, at what is being done to cyclists in my name.

Cycle Superhighway 2 is desperately, appallingly dangerous and pretending not to be.

So, if I’m killed on the cycle superhighway between Bow Flyover and Aldgate Gyratory, will someone point the coroner at this blog post and say “I told you so?” Thanks.

Oddly enough, I’ve been praying this a lot recently:

Sub tuum praesidium confugimus, Sancta Dei Genitrix. Nostras deprecationes ne despicias in necessitatibus nostris, sed a periculis cunctis libera nos semper, Virgo gloriosa et benedicta.

(Under thy protection we seek refuge, Holy Mother of God; despise not our petitions in our needs, but from all dangers deliver us always, Virgin Glorious and Blessed).


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2 Responses to Blue paint is not magic

  1. Dave Neary (@nearyd)

    Small point: This cyclist is cycling between 2 lanes of traffic, not on the super-highway, which is on the left. I’d have no trouble cycling on that.

    The only dangerous bits I’ve seen are the “lanes of death” where left turning traffic gets to drive across the cycle lane, but other than that, looks like any road-side cycle lane (doubling as bus lane at times) I’ve ever seen.


    • rosamundi

      Technically, he’s in the superhighway when he pulls out past the bus stop to go past the buses. Those blue squares in the middle of the two lanes of traffic are the superhighway at those points. When it’s a blue lane on the left, buses and lorries are going past you with inches to spare, because they have no choice but to trespass over into the cycle lane due to the width of it and the left-hand car lane, which it shares.